Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Sunday that prominent human rights campaigner Brad Adams would be barred from entering Cambodia if he did not apologize for a statement last week in which he argued that CPP President Chea Sim should have been investigated for crimes he allegedly committed as a Khmer Rouge official.
In an open letter to Mr. Adams, Asia director for Human Rights Watch, on Saturday, General Sopheak said a statement released by the group the day after Chea Sim’s death on June 8 was “inhumane.”
“More importantly, at the time when Cambodian people and families of the deceased are grieving the passing away of Samdech [Chea Sim], the statement, with this immoral content, only reflects the inhumane behavior of the director,” the letter said.
Contacted Sunday, Gen. Sopheak said that Mr. Adams would be put on the country’s “blacklist” unless he publicly apologized for his comments.
“He will be entered into the blacklist of Cambodia,” Gen. Sopheak said.
“I think that he should change his mind, say ‘sorry’ or ‘excuse me, I’m wrong,’” he said. “If he doesn’t apologize, I think Cambodia will never welcome him again.”
In its statement last week, HRW said Chea Sim’s death should bring a renewed effort to try Cambodian leaders responsible for crimes committed under the Khmer Rouge.
“Chea Sim’s passing is a reminder that virtually all former Khmer Rouge officials have gone unpunished for the millions of deaths and incredible suffering of ordinary Cambodians during Khmer Rouge rule,” Mr. Adams said in the statement.
The statement added that research conducted by HRW in 2005 found evidence that Chea Sim, working as a Khmer Rouge district secretary in the country’s east, was complicit in crimes including arbitrary executions.
Gen. Sopheak’s letter, however, said that because Chea Sim was merely a low-level official, he was not responsible for crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge.
Mr. Adams, who is based in California, could not immediately be reached Sunday.
Phil Robertson, deputy director of HRW’s Asia division, declined to comment.
Ou Virak, a political analyst and rights advocate, said the Interior Ministry’s threat was not surprising given how critical Mr. Adams has been of the government over the years.
“I think Brad Adams certainly is at the top of the list of people the government doesn’t like,” he said. “I don’t think this is a strategic move, I think it is just a combination of being a long time coming and they probably said enough is enough and put a stop to it.”
Last week’s statement is not the first time Mr. Adams has irked the Cambodian government. In March 2013, Prime Minister Hun Sen addressed accusations from Mr. Adams that the government was deliberately interfering with the Khmer Rouge tribunal.
“There was a guy who said that Hun Sen stalled the trial,” Mr. Hun Sen said at the time. “Brad Adams, right? From Human Rights Watch. Brad Adams. Oh God.”
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