The company they keep

On 21 March, the Phnom Penh Post and the Cambodia Daily both reported that that a number of mostly anonymous “human rights organisations” and individuals had filed complaints with the International Criminal Court accusing Prime Minister Hun Sen of genocide and various other crimes. I indicated earlier why I think the genocide charge is not to be taken seriously (http://www.khmertimeskh.com/?cur=news/view&id=357&title=cambodia-gets-silly-season; also the previous page of this blog). Here I would like to explore what little is known or can be discovered about the complainants.

In the Post article, journalist Kevin Ponniah wrote that the genocide “complaint has no connection to the Cambodia National Rescue Party”. I don’t know the basis on which he made such a confident assertion, particularly since most of the complainants have not been identified.

Only three complainants were named in the articles: two individuals (a Cambodian victim of the KR and New Zealander Rob Hamill, whose brother was murdered by the Khmer Rouge) and a US-based organisation called Me Boun.

This in itself is rather peculiar. In so far as it is publicly identified (it doesn’t have its own web page), Me Boun is described as an organisation that assists Cambodians who have been injured by land mines. What connection there may be between mines and the trials of KR leaders is not explained.

Also not explained is how, precisely, Me Boun goes about aiding Cambodian mine victims. A search at both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of the Interior has turned up no evidence of an NGO by that name ever registering to work in Cambodia.

In 2003, a US web site, guidestar, which graded various charities on their activity and conformity or otherwise with US law, said that Me Boun reported receiving donations of $3575 in 2002 and spending $1986 on program services and $645 on administration. Guidestar added about Me Boun:

“This organization has not appeared in IRS [Internal Revenue Service] records for a number of months and may no longer exist.

“This organization’s [tax-]exempt status was automatically revoked by the IRS for failure to file a Form 990, 990-EZ, 990-N, or 990-PF for 3 consecutive years. Further investigation and due diligence are warranted.”

However, Me Boun showed up later as a member of something called “Khmer People Network for Cambodia” (KPNC), which consisted of either 8 organisations (in July 2012) or 13 (in January 2013). However many there are, most of them, despite some rather grandiose titles, such as World Peace & Justice Foundation, seem to consist of at most a handful of people. Their activities appear to be mostly signing various statements with each other.

For example, in January 2013, the KPNC wrote a letter to Barack Obama congratulating him on his second inauguration and: (1) urging him to seek enforcement of the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements on Cambodia (that required a four-part government including the Khmer Rouge, which fortunately never came into existence; I assume that is not what the KPNC is hoping for); and (2) claiming that Cambodia’s 28 July national election would be illegal unless the National Election Committee was reformed, the recommendations of UN representative Surya Subedi were obeyed and Sam Rainsy was able to return to Cambodia before the election (for an analysis of Subedi’s proposals, see https://letters2pppapers.wordpress.com/archives/2012-2/subedis-proposals-wont-improve-cambodian-elections/).

In addition to Me Boun, another dozen organisations are listed in the letter as members of the KPNC. Of course, one should not assume that these organisations are among the 20 organisations and individuals which the Post says filed the ICC complaint. But they do give an idea of the company Me Boun keeps.

Furthermore, at least one of them is directly related to the complaint. This organisation is listed only as “CARD0 ”. I know nothing about it or what, if anything, it does, but its email address is the address of Ngin Bunrith, the Cambodian KR victim listed as one of the complainants to the ICC. Thus, two of the three known complainants to the ICC are on record urging the US government to pressure Cambodia to conduct its elections in accordance with the demands of the Cambodian National Rescue Party.

Below are brief summaries of what I have been able to discover about other signatories of the letter to Obama.

Two of them are Human Rights & Land Protection Activists and Buddhi [sic] Khmer Foundation for Morality & Democracy; a Google search finds no mention of either, except for the letter itself. Another is listed simply as “DREAM”, along with an email address; I inquired of that address about what DREAM is or does, but received no response.

Another signatory, the Khmer Civilization Foundation, is an organisation headed by Sonn Moeung, who was sentenced to two years’ prison in 2009 on charges of spreading misinformation about electrical lighting at Angkor Wat. Whatever one thinks of that case, it seems to have little connection with the regulations of the 2013 election (or genocide).

The already mentioned World Peace & Justice Foundation is located in Sioux City, Iowa, USA. From its web site, its main activity seems to be distributing and eventually translating into English a Khmer-language book by one Kin Chandara (English title: The Khmer Heroes Sacrifice in The Dark World). I confess I haven’t read many of its 779 pages, but I think the beginning, which traces Vietnamese villainy back to at least 221 B.C., gives a sufficient idea of the content.

The Lohet Khmer Association aroused the same doubts as Me Boun in the 1999 Guidestar evaluation. The association’s entire “mission statement” is given as “education and social”. However, on 20 October 2013, the Washington state branch of the CNRP thanked Lohet Khmer for its $200 contribution to “the Fund Collected for Flood Victims and Mass Demonstrations in Cambodia”.

The Cambodian Mother’s Legacy Foundation also seems not to have been very active, although in April 2011 it did post a notice on google groups inviting people to two public meetings in Florida being addressed by CNRP politician Mu Sochua. Unfortunately, the notice seems to have attracted the attention mainly of anti-Semitic lunatics, who responded with comments such as, “Like Cambodia, AMERICA is also being destroyed by THE COMMUNISTS & zionist jews”.

Another KPNC member, Child Hope, says it is involved in educating underprivileged children, of whom there are many suitably soulful looking ones pictured on its website. A contribution of $40, it promises, will pay for a community teacher for a month, which rather undercuts the existing salaries of Cambodian teachers, let alone their demands for an increase. As is often the case with members of the KPNC, there is a disconnect between the organisation’s nominal purpose and its activity. So Child Hope, which says it is helping children, joins with other KPNC in advocating electoral changes, even though children do not normally vote in Cambodia’s elections.

Khmer Voice for Democracy seems to be a radio station located in the US state of Washington.

The two remaining signatories are Cambodian Americans for Human Rights & Democracy (CAHRAD) and Khmer Unity for Cambodia (KUC). Both feature in the other major activity of the KPNC, the organisation of something called the Cambodian National Conference, which has taken place in either Alexandria or Arlington, in northern Virginia, in 2007, 2011 and 2012. The web advertising for the 2012 conference listed web addresses of these two organisations as sources of further information. One hopes that the CAHRAD page was in better shape then than it is now, because now it is completely blank.

As for the KUC, the “news” items that dominate its web page come in three categories: (1) favourable reports of the activities of Sam Rainsy; (2) attacks on Hun Sen; (3) combinations of 1 and 2. The site’s general tone is indicated by the opening of its letter to “Patriots”:

“The blood of our Khmer people is being shed, again. Our homeland is being violated by hostile neighboring countries, again. The grounds of our sacred Preah Vihear Temple, a world heritage site, and the 1962 International Court decision are being ignored, again. The Paris Peace Agreement of 1991 is being ignored, again.

“The Federal Republic of Vietcamlao will destroy the sovereignty of our Motherland. Then the Empire of Annam will successfully finish the annihilation of our language, our country and our civilization.”

Thus, despite what someone told the Phnom Penh Post’s reporter, it is hard to avoid a suspicion that the lodging of the “genocide” complaint with the ICC has more to do with Cambodian right-wing politics than with anything that might happen in the Khmer Rouge Tribunal. The only identified Cambodian complainants are both closely involved with Cambodian-American paranoid fantasists who publicly back the CNRP.

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