Senior officials from Cambodia’s opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) are encouraging colleagues to declare their assets as instructed by the country’s Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) to avoid legal action, following a warning by Prime Minister Hun Sen that those who fail to do so will be jailed.
On Dec. 11, the ACU issued a letter informing all elected CNRP officials who were removed from their posts following a decision last month by the Supreme Court to dissolve the party to declare their assets within 30 days. The court ruling followed allegations the opposition was planning a “rebellion.”
During a speech to several thousand factory workers in the capital Phnom Penh on Dec. 17, Hun Sen threatened to imprison all CNRP members who failed to disclose their assets by the deadline imposed by the ACU.
“Some have questioned why they need to declare their assets if their party has already been dissolved,” he said at the time.
“I’m afraid you will end up in jail if you fail to do so—I’m telling you. When you took your position you had to declare your assets once. When you leave your position, you must do it again. If your declared assets are more than previously declared, then you will be investigated.”
On the day of Hun Sen’s warning, the ACU had released an updated account of the number of CNRP members who had declared their assets—33 lawmakers, three former members of the National Election Committee, and 262 provincial, district, and commune councilors throughout the country.
On Friday, CNRP Senator Sor Chandeth told RFA’s Khmer Service that 70 percent of his party’s 300 elected commune councilors in Banteay Meanchey province had already declared their assets, and he encouraged the remaining councilors to do so “as soon as possible.”
“May I urge all CNRP officials to proceed with their declaration of their assets as soon as possible, in order to avoid being politically harassed further for failing to do so,” he said.
“We consider the requirement for us to declare our assets unjust and improper. However, we have no other option.”
San Soeung, the head of the CNRP in Kampong Cham province, told RFA that “only a few” of his colleagues had declared their assets because many of them had yet to receive a notification to do so.
“Very few have declared their assets because they have not been officially informed,” he said.
“On top of that, many of my colleagues are reluctant to declare their assets because they were in office for just a few months and haven’t acquired any new assets to declare.”
Chea Cheav, the head of the CNRP in Battambang province, told RFA that only 10 percent of party officials under his jurisdiction had declared their assets, echoing concerns over “late notifications.”
Yin Mengly, Banteay Meanchey province coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said the authorities have “applied a double standard” in forcing members of the opposition to declare their assets within a limited time period, and suggested that the public also believes officials from the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) receive preferential treatment on the issue.
“I think the Anti-Corruption Unit should listen to constructive criticism and review such practices to avoid a double standard,” he said.
Hun Sen first declared his assets in 2011, claiming that his U.S. $13,800 annual salary was his sole source of income.
But a July 2016 report by London-based Global Witness found that the prime minister’s family members are “amassing vast personal fortunes in Cambodia’s private sector, and wield significant control across most of its lucrative industries,” with links to major international brands including Apple, Nokia, Visa, Procter & Gamble, Nestlé and Honda.
Hun Sen’s family has a combined wealth “estimated to total between U.S. $500 million and U.S. $1 billion,” the report said, while 40 percent of Cambodians still live below or close to the poverty line.
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Nareth Muong. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.