Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - US imposes sanctions on Oknha Pheap and Kun Kim

US imposes sanctions on Oknha Pheap and Kun Kim

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Cambodian tycoon Oknha Try Pheap. Post Pix

US imposes sanctions on Oknha Pheap and Kun Kim

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation expressed strong dismay on Monday over the designation of Cambodian tycoon Oknha Try Pheap and General Kun Kim under the US’ Global Magnitsky Act.

“It is very disturbing when the public figures of a country become the subjects of the punitive measures of another country based on groundless accounts and accusations that are in total disregard of the legal and judicial independence of the country,” the ministry said in a statement.

The reaction came after the US Department of Treasury on Monday placed sanctions on Pheap and Kim and his family, citing the two figures as having had directly or indirectly engaged in corruption, including the misappropriation of state assets, the expropriation of private assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery.

“Pheap has used his vast network inside Cambodia to build a large-scale illegal logging consortium that relies on the collusion of Cambodian officials, to include purchasing protection from the government, including military protection, for the movement of his illegal products,” the treasury department said.

It said Pheap had used the Cambodian military to enable his timber trafficking activities and sell to buyers in Vietnam, China, Europe, and Russia. The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated 11 Cambodia-registered entities it said are owned or controlled by Pheap.

For Kim, the treasury department said he was instrumental in development projects in Koh Kong province and had reaped significant financial benefits from his close relationship with a Chinese state-owned entity.

Kim had used Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) soldiers to “intimidate, demolish, and clear-out land sought by the PRC-owned entity”, it said, referring to the official acronym for China.

Five entities owned or controlled by Kim’s three children were also designated in the Global Magnitsky Act.

US embassy spokesperson Emily Zeeberg confirmed the US had imposed financial sanctions and visa restrictions on Pheap, Kim and his wife and children for corruption pursuant to Executive Order 13818.

“As a result, their assets within US jurisdictions are blocked, and US persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them and their entities.

“These actions were taken to protect the integrity of the US financial system and ensure corrupt actors, [Kim’s family] and companies do not benefit from our system and cannot travel to or spend their ill-gotten gains in the US,” she said.

Zeeberg continued that the move supported Cambodia’s anti-corruption efforts and would help stop the illegal trade in timber and wildlife.

Cambodia’s foreign affairs ministry said the executive order undermined the government’s ongoing efforts in restoring trust and confidence between Cambodia and the US as reflected in the recent two-way communication between Prime Minister Hun Sen and US President Donald Trump.

It said the move was a serious violation of the international principles of sovereign equality and non-interference in the domestic affairs of other states as enshrined in the charter of the UN and other international laws.

“His Excellency Kun Kim is well-known for his great contribution to the protection and maintenance of peace, stability, and social order while Oknha Try Pheap has played an active role in supporting Cambodia’s socio-economic development,” it said.

Neither Pheap nor Kim could be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said the government also deplored the US treasury department’s sanctions on the two figures and would review the US’ move.

Meanwhile, he said Cambodia would continue to defend itself against the accusation based on justice and integrity.

“This is the first time that our citizens have been sanctioned. We regret this and will seek justice and integrity in a diplomatic way in order to protect Cambodians. This is the task of the government,” he said.

However, political analyst Em Sovannara said the US’ latest sanctions were not the first for Cambodian figures. Washington, he said, had previously imposed visa restrictions on high-ranking Cambodian military officials.

Sovannara said the sanctions could affect bilateral relations and called on the government to lodge a complaint with the international court to prove its innocence.

“What strikes me the most is that the US president sent a letter to Cambodia, and in response, the government said it would restore bilateral relations.

“But while the relations were improving, the US imposed sanctions on Cambodians. This would make it hard to see the relations restored,” he said.

Watch video:

MOST VIEWED

  • Siem Reap drain canal now ‘mangrove’ promenade

    A more than half a kilometre long stretch of canal in Siem Reap has been covered and turned into a promenade to attract visitors, said Ly Rasmey, secretary of state at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, on September 16. The new pedestrianised

  • Angkor wildlife, aquarium park still to open October

    The Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium complex about 30km southeast of Siem Reap town with initial total investment of more than $70 million is reportedly still on track for an end-October opening. The park is located on a 100ha plot along National Road 6 in Kbon village, Khchas

  • Final verdicts for Khmer Rouge leaders ‘vital’ for next generation

    Nearly a decade after the commencement of Case 002/02 against Khieu Samphan back in 2014, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) is now set to deliver its final verdict for the former Khmer Rouge head of state. The Supreme Court Chamber of the ECCC,

  • Typhoon Noru brings flash floods – 16 dead

    An official warned that that the 16th typhoon of the season, Noru, had brought heavy rains to areas the Mekong River and flooded thousands of homes in the provinces bordering Thailand. As of September 27, the death toll from the flooding had risen to 16. National Committee

  • Defence minister reaffirms Kingdom’s staunch support for One-China policy

    Minister of National Defence General Tea Banh has reaffirmed Cambodia’s unwavering support for the One-China policy. Tea Banh was speaking at the September 20 ceremonial handover of 117 vehicles and other military equipment donated by China’s defence ministry, held at Phnom Chumreay International Military Training

  • Deaths due to ‘lifestyle’ diseases rise in Kingdom

    The Ministry of Health has called on people to pay closer attention to their health to protect themselves from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) which it said have caused high rates of deaths in the country. Ministry secretary of state York Sambath made the call at a