Anti-Corruption Unit chief Om Yentieng yesterday claimed to have evidence of corruption committed by opposition leader Sam Rainsy, and threatened to investigate the CNRP president if he continues to speak out against the graft case currently levelled at his deputy, Kem Sokha.
In response to comments made by Rainsy on his Facebook page late on Monday, in which he questioned the role of the ACU, Yentieng told Radio France International yesterday that his organisation was sitting on information pertaining to the opposition leader.
“I have information about [Rainsy engaging in corrupt activities], and if he continues to violate the law, we will uncover it,” he said.
In comments posted to his Facebook page late on Monday, Rainsy said the ACU had a responsibility to investigate government corruption, which he described as the misuse of state funds and exploitation of national resources.
The opposition, he said, were not part of the government and “cannot be involved in government corruption”. In an apparent reference to the case of Sokha, who is being investigated by the ACU for purportedly promising cash and property to a alleged mistress, the opposition leader said those not part of the government should not be subject to an ACU investigation as it was a private matter.
Contacted yesterday, the self-exiled Rainsy reiterated his stance on the distinction between government corruption and other “minor” forms of corruption, which he said were matters for the courts.
He went on to call for all politicians’ asset declaration envelopes at the ACU to be opened and investigated “with the participation of independent observers” and “under the eyes of all citizens”.
“[Om Yentieng] is trying to blackmail me, but I couldn’t care less because I have nothing to hide,” he said in an email.
Yentieng declined multiple requests to comment yesterday.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan yesterday balked at the suggestion that the ACU open up and investigate all government asset declarations, saying that the graft body had to follow due process, which meant either receiving a complaint from the public, or determining for themselves that “there was enough evidence to move”.
“Sam Rainsy has a right to protect his privacy,” Siphan said.
Preap Kol, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia, said yesterday that the ACU had a responsibility to enforce anti-corruption law against all corrupt officials when sufficient evidence has been collected.
“There should be one standard for its conduct and should be free from all form of political influence or motivation,” he said.
Ou Virak, a political analyst and founder of political think tank the Future Forum, called the threats levelled at Rainsy “inappropriate”, as it was the ACU’s responsibility to investigate state corruption, “so why would they be blackmailing the opposition leader?” he said.
Meanwhile, the student group that first complained to the ACU and initiated its investigation into CNRP deputy leader Sokha, continued its crusade yesterday, this time taking to the streets bearing CNRP flags and shirts to demonstrate that they were once former opposition supporters.
“It’s their freedom to wear CNRP shirts in a rally if they want to wear them,” the group’s leader, Srey Chamroeun, said.
The group demonstration moved from the National Assembly to the UN headquarters, then CNRP headquarters and finally to Sokha’s house, with petitions calling for the deputy opposition leader to respond to allegations of infidelity.
When accepting the student petition at the National Assembly, Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker Chheang Vun said that while there was no law allowing the assembly to summons a lawmaker to clarify such allegations, the internal workings of the parliament allowed for it.
“A lawmaker is a senior person, so if the permanent committee of the National Assembly decides to create a special committee or an expert committee, we can invite that senior person,” he said.
For their part, the CNRP last night released a statement condemning the student movement, saying it would file a lawsuit against the group for impersonating opposition supporters.
The statement said that “using flags, shirts and caps with logo of the CNRP, without permission from the party to do so, while gathering and rallying led by Srey Chamroeun’s group is an act of intentionally impersonating, aiming to slander the party’s reputation and its members as well as a violation of laws on intellectual property and the penal law”.
In an unrelated Facebook post yesterday, on the eve of an annual ceremony to commemorate the grenade attack that killed 16 people and injured hundreds more during a garment worker demonstration in 1997, Rainsy described the attack as “an act of state terrorism perpetrated on a group of innocent people”.
Government spokesman Siphan chided Rainsy for his choice of language, saying that he was trying to “incite citizens to oppose the royal government”.
The CNRP confirmed the opposition leader will take part in today’s ceremony at the old National Assembly building via video link.
Additional reporting by Meas Sokchea and Chhay Channyda