Embattled NGO chief Suon Bunsak is expected to resign later today after months of controversy surrounding his conduct as secretary-general of the Cambodian Human Rights Action Coalition (CHRAC).
Acting CHRAC chair In Kea said last night that Bunsak had sent an email to the steering committee yesterday calling a meeting, adding that the email was titled: “Agenda: the resignation of the secretary-general”.
Asked whether he would accept Bunsak’s resignation, Kea said, “Yeah, why not, if we have clear information about what he did?”
Bunsak first revealed his plan to resign via text message yesterday afternoon in response to a Post reporter seeking a response to allegations that he had tried to solicit a bribe last year.
“I have already resigned from [my] job in Chrac [sic], I am not in a position to speak to any media,” he wrote.
CHRAC donor Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) suspended funding to the NGO earlier this year pending an audit, citing operational concerns. NPA country director Aksel Steen-Nilsen confirmed yesterday that funding has since been, “unfreezed . . . based on certain criteria that need to be filled”. He declined to outline those criteria.
During the audit, on June 24, former CHRAC consultant Billy Tai had emailed screenshots and transcripts of a text message exchange apparently between himself and Bunsak in which the latter appeared to request a bribe from Tai in return for allocating him a consulting position on a project funded by the Swiss Embassy in Bangkok.
Tai shared the exchange with the Post upon hearing of the NPA’s unfreezing of funds. Part of the first in a series of text messages from Bunsak to Tai on 30 March 2015, read: “This frankly mean [sic] that I would like to privately ask you to give me incentive of 1500s and then I will give you my incentive that I will give you a full freedom of work”.
NPA’s Steen-Nilsen declined yesterday to comment on the texts.
CHRAC chair Thun Saray, who is currently living in Canada, responded to an emailed enquiry saying that he had asked In Kea and the steering committee to make a decision on Bunsak’s tenure at today’s meeting.
Tai said yesterday he had paid no bribe, adding that he hoped Bunsak’s resignation would be “the turning of a new leaf” for an organisation that has struggled in recent times to retain both staff and donors.