Monday, 25 August 2008

Corruption article provokes Khieu Kanharith

Cambodge Soir


Khieu Kanharith the government spokesman organised a press conference for the morning of Sunday August 24, to protest against an article on corruption in Cambodia written by an American journalist.

The minister of information, and government spokesman, Khieu Kanharith, accused Joel Brinkley of being “partial”. The author, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, wrote an article entitled: “the world leader in corruption is-Cambodia” which was published on August 21 in the Modesto Bee, a Californian newspaper.

“I met Joel Brinkley on August 14. He said he wanted to write articles on education, economy, land grabbing issues and the government’s political vision” indicated Khieu Kanharith. “I suggested he meet Say Chhum, the General Secretary of the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) along with Im Chhunlim, Minister of Land Planning, Im Sothy, the Secretary of State for Education, Chum Bunrong, spokesman of the Committee on Land disputes and Phay Siphan, spokesman of the Council of Ministers”.

“Joel Brinkley told me he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, therefore he should be entitled to meet high ranking officials. He treated me like his assistant”, Khieu Kanharith stated.

The article—also posted on the Ki-media internet site, a website close to the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP)—quoted at length the Phnom Penh Post when mentioning an accident which personally involved Prime Minister Hun Sen’s nephew, during which a motorbike driver died.” According to the Phnom Penh Post, the victim’s family received $4,000 in hush money, with the Military Police favouring Hun Chea’s (Hun Sen’s nephew ) version of the event.

Joel Brinkley’s article also quotes Joseph Mussomeli, the American Ambassador to Cambodia, who agreed that this incident “goes to the whole culture of impunity here. Who you are, who you know, is more important than following the law”.

Joel Brinkley, received the Pulitzer Prize in 1980 for foreign correspondent articles on Cambodia. He wrote: “I have worked in many corrupt states - Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan, among others. But in none of them is the corruption so pervasive, even pandemic”.

During the press conference, Khieu Kanharith denied the accusations published in the Phnom Penh Post. He also stated that Hun Chea’s traffic accident was “private business”.

When asked if Joel Brinkley could be banned from entering the country, Khieu Kanharith answered that “the journalist could return to Cambodia any time”.

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