Three of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s children took to social media yesterday to slam a report that revealed details of the ruling family’s business empire and alleged they amassed a “vast fortune”, while the premier himself uploaded an old picture of the family celebrating in his office.
In statements on their respective Facebook pages, the premier’s daughter Hun Mana and sons Hun Manet and Hun Manith, criticised Global Witness’s “attack”, with Mana dismissing the group’s report, which is largely based on the government’s own data, as “lies and deceit” that would in fact “help my father in the coming election”.
“We very much understand your intention toward my Father and my Family,” wrote Hun Mana, a business mogul who Global Witness linked to at least 22 companies.
“And as expected every time when we are near election time, your organization always come out with something to try to tarnish my Father [sic] reputation.”
The prime minister did not respond directly to the report but uploaded screen grabs of his children’s statements to Facebook alongside photos of the family celebrating and toasting in his office. “Today, my sons and daughters expressed themselves on social media,” he stated.
Attempts were made to reach all the siblings for comment yesterday.
Late last night in response to inquiries about her Facebook post, Mana in a text message said she did not “not intend to explain myself on a provocative articles that you have posted”.
“I just want to say that It’s unbelievable that your organization deliberately lie to the public to get our reaction,” she said.
“I don’t understand what you and your organizations are trying to achieve by doing this politically motivated work. I do not want to be involved in this crazy politically motivated agenda of yours. Please go back to consult with Global Witness for a better way to discredit my family.”
The report analysed the Ministry of Commerce’s business registry and linked 27 relatives of the premier to 114 domestic companies, which span 20 sectors and had an initial share capital of more than $200 million.
It accused the family of flouting Cambodia’s laws to build the “empire” and said the findings suggested “grand corruption”.
Numerous global media outlets including the New York Times, the Guardian, TIME magazine, and the Financial Times published stories yesterday morning based on an embargoed copy of the research provided in advance to the press, a common practice with such reports.
However, the premier’s children yesterday each attempted to paint its release as a conspiracy between Global Witness, the Post and the Cambodia Daily.
Manith, a military general, whose directorship of an electricity company was highlighted in the report as a breach of Cambodian law, called it a “well coordinated attack” between the three organisations to “defame the Hun family”.
“Full of mistakes and wrong informations [sic] as usual,” he wrote.
Manet, who was not directly linked to a company but whose wife holds stakes in eight firms, also linked the report’s release to the upcoming election and also alluded to a conspiracy.
In a statement yesterday, Global Witness’s co-founder Patrick Alley stood by the report, noting it was based on official information, which members of the Hun family “presumably provided to the government”.
“Instead of simply denying the evidence, Hun Sen and his family members should make full public declarations of their assets including all existing connections to domestic and international companies, whether those connections are formal or informal,” Alley said.
CNRP lawmaker Son Chhay, a long-time anti-corruption crusader, yesterday said the report further established what Cambodians had long-known: that the country’s economic growth had been disproportionately enjoyed by a privileged handful.
“You can see the large difference between the rich and the poor,” Chhay said, also noting a private sector built on political connections discouraged foreign investment. “The report doesn’t surprise anyone who is already familiar with what has been happening.”