Press release | Dec. 9, 2019

Global Witness statement on US Government sanctions on Try Pheap and Kun Kim

Global Witness today welcomed the announcement of new US Government sanctions on two close associates of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, both of whom have previously been linked to serious human rights and environmental abuses.

The news that timber tycoon Try Pheap and General Kun Kim are to be sanctioned as individuals is significant, as members of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s inner circle have continued to enjoy access to the United States, despite strong evidence of their involvement in forest destruction, land seizures, corruption and human rights abuses.

Global Witness investigations have revealed how Try Pheap, a sometime advisor to Hun Sen, controlled a multi-million dollar timber smuggling operation in Cambodia, destroying the country’s forests and the lives of those who depend on them. Officials from government, the military, police and customs were all complicit in this operation. 

Try Pheap’s company was even granted exclusive rights to buy any illegal timber seized by authorities, to sell on at a profit. Try Pheap has funded the Cambodian military, which has been at the heart of a systemic campaign of land seizures that have caused mass displacement and serious human rights abuses.

General Kun Kim’s roles have included Chief of Joint Staff of the Cambodian military and he is currently Senior Minister responsible for veterans’ affairs. Global Witness has previously documented his association with the Malaysian GAT International logging company, which had its two timber concessions cancelled after Global Witness exposed its persistent illegal logging activities.

The general has been described by Human Rights Watch as a “notorious human rights abuser”. HRW’s ‘Dirty Dozen’ report, published last year, details allegations of Kun Kim’s involvement in abuses going back to the time that he was a member of the Khmer Rouge regime during the 1970s.

Global Witness Director Patrick Alley said:

“Prime Minister Hun Sen has sustained his hold on power by rewarding his henchmen, cronies and family members at the expense of ordinary Cambodians. As Global Witness investigations have revealed over a twenty five year period, his cabal has plundered public property such as forests and land with devastating human and environmental consequences.

“As Hun Sen’s supporters have accumulated more and more wealth and impunity, their incentive to help him cling to power has increased. Accountability for those sustaining the corrupt dictatorship that is oppressing Cambodians on a daily basis is long overdue.” 

Prime Minister Hun Sen has been in power for 34 years, ruling with an iron fist that has seen opposition MPs, journalists and activists attacked, arrested and even killed. A small clique of tycoons have propped up his regime with political donations and military funding, and by courting investors from overseas.

This loyalty has been handsomely rewarded – the tycoons variously appear to have enjoyed immunity from the law, the spoils of the government’s state looting, and the use of state security forces to guard their company operations and violently crack down on local protests against them. But these new sanctions could have an impact on two of his closest associates.

Global Witness is calling on other governments now to impose comparable sanctions on Try Pheap and Kun Kim, as well as on other members of Hun Sen’s inner circle profiled in Global Witness’ report ‘Who Profits from the Death of Cambodia’s Democracy?’



Notes to editor:

  1. Interviews are available. Please contact [email protected] to arrange.
  2. Global Witness’ report Hostile Takeover: How Cambodia’s ruling family are pulling the strings on the economy and amassing vast personal fortunes with extreme consequences for the population can be found here.
  3. Global Witness’ report The Cost of Luxury, which profiles the illegal logging and timber smuggling activities of Try Pheap, can be found here.
  4. Global Witness’ report Cambodia’s Family Trees: Illegal logging and the stripping of public assets by Cambodia’s elite, which includes coverage of General Kun Kim, can be found here.
  5. Human Rights Watch’s report Cambodia’s Dirty Dozen: A Long History of Rights Abuses by Hun Sen’s Generals can be found here.  

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