Monday, July 11, 2016

Cambodian Leader’s Family Is Profiting From His Position,
Report Says
BANGKOK — Relatives of Cambodia’s prime minister, Hun Sen, are amassing personal fortunes through the family’s political influence and have acquired shares in companies in nearly every sector of the economy, according to a report released on Thursday by the human rights group Global Witness.
Well-known global brands that operate in Cambodia, such as Apple, Canon and LG Electronics, are among those that have distribution agreements or other business ties with family members of Mr. Hun Sen, according to the group, a nonprofit organization based in Washington that focuses on corruption, human rights and the environment.
In some cases, those relatives have secured distribution rights for cellphones and other consumer goods, said the report, titled “Hostile Takeover: The Corporate Empire of Cambodia’s Ruling Family.”
“Hun Sen has abused his position as prime minister to allow his relatives control of, or major stakes in, most of Cambodia’s major industries,” the report said.
The report, based on an analysis of the family’s financial declarations to the government, found that 21 of Mr. Hun Sen’s relatives had links to 114 domestic companies with a total value of more than $200 million.
The financial reports filed with the government included only information that the family members chose to declare, and Global Witness asserted that the financial interests of the prime minister’s relatives were probably much larger.
A government spokesman, Phay Siphan, said he would not comment on the report, which he said was “attempting to defame” Mr. Hun Sen’s reputation.
Representatives of Apple and LG Electronics in Cambodia also declined to comment. Canon representatives in the country could not be reached.
International companies that have financial deals with relatives of Mr. Hun Sen risk violating United States anticorruption laws and should consider severing their business ties with the family, the report said.
The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which became law in 1977, prohibits American companies and companies listed on a United States stock exchange from providing anything of value to a foreign official to influence a decision or gain an improper business advantage.
Mr. Hun Sen, 63, is a former commander of the Khmer Rouge, whose rule of terror in Cambodia lasted from 1975 to 1979. One of the world’s longest-serving leaders, he came to power in 1985 and refused to step aside in 1993 after he was voted out of office. Critics say he has relied on brutality and intimidation to remain in power. He has said he plans to stay in office for another decade.
Patrick Alley, director of Global Witness, called on foreign companies to examine their ties with the prime minister’s family and ensure that they were not contributing to a corrupt government.
“It’s time for international partners and investors to recognize that Cambodia is a dictatorship and is likely to become a dynastic one,” he said in an interview.
The report does not specify what business deals American companies may have struck with members of Mr. Hun Sen’s family. Many of the foreign companies named by Global Witness sell consumer products in the Cambodian market.
One relative cited in the report is Sok Sopheak, the wife of a nephew of Hun Sen, who chairs iOne, Cambodia’s leading Apple retailer. She could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Hun Mana, Mr. Hun Sen’s eldest daughter, appears to be the most active in business of his children, with reported holdings of more than $66 million and an interest in at least 22 companies, the report said. Her interests include media, energy, tourism, aviation, finance and telecommunications, Global Witness said. She also is chairwoman of an advertising business that includes numerous global companies among its clients, the report said. Reached by phone, she declined to comment.
Global Witness said that it had contacted all the Hun Sen family members named in the report and that only one, his son-in-law Sok Puthyvuth, had responded. In an email to the organization, he said he had gone into business because his family did not want him involved in government.
“I can understand your assumption that I have abused my power to get to where I am today, but I can assure you that I take seriously the challenge of building a responsible and respected private sector group,” he said, according to the report.
Mr. Alley said Global Witness would be contacting international companies in the coming days requesting that they evaluate their business dealings with the prime minister’s family.
The United States is Cambodia’s largest trading partner, and the two countries have about $3 billion in trade annually. The governments in Washington and Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, are negotiating a bilateral investment treaty to bring additional United States investment to Cambodia.
“The family’s holdings span the majority of Cambodia’s most lucrative business sectors as well as those characterized by high levels of corruption, human rights abuses and environmental damage,” the report said.

How Rich Are Cambodia’s Hun Sen and His Family?
A new report reveals specifics about the leader and his family’s net worth.
By Luke Hunt, July 07, 2016

For decades, rumors have circulated surrounding the net worth of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and family. Their business ties are as extensive as their land holdings, leading to speculation the banks accounts of the Huns are flushed and overflowing.
An investigation by Global Witness seems to have proven just that. Its report, Hostile Takeover, officially released today, found that the family hold either shares or directly own about 114 private domestic companies with a listed value of $200 million.
Its findings are based off of data from the Cambodian company registry. Online access, according to Global Witness, has since been restricted.
Hostile Takeover does not include the value of the family’s land assets, which observers said would substantially add to the family’s worth.
Of the $200 million, it said “this is undoubtedly just a fraction of the true value of the family’s business holdings”. Global Witness co-founder Patrick Alley told this journalist that figures of between “$500 million and $4 billion” had been touted but were unverified.
The report also says his family were “said to obscure their commercial interests behind fake names and within shell companies” while over the years “family members have been implicated in a $1 billion heroin smuggling operation, shoot-outs and a fatal hit-and-run”.
Wealth is a sensitive issue for Hun Sen, who has said he makes a wage of just $1,150 a month after 30 years in the job. Cambodia’s leader has seen his popularity dwindle in recent years as the country’s ruling few amass unimaginable wealth in a country blighted by poverty.
Under Cambodian law, officials must declare their assets every two years or face a maximum fine of $500 and up to a year in prison. Most of the family is mentioned including the First Lady, Bun Rany, who impressed with her political acumen when running the Cambodian Red Cross.
Hun Sen’s daughter Mana and senator Ly Yong Phat are singled out for their business holdings and ties to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). They are the only two people who have interests in all three major mediums; radio, television and newspapers.
Hostile Takeover says the premier’s family has been key to the longevity of his political career through their control of key posts in politics, the military, police, media, and charities which it said were sectors that prop up the CPP through propaganda, political donations, or brute force.
“The domestic companies they are affiliated to have been accused of a litany of abuses, including the theft of land and natural resources, violence and intimidation against local populations and environmental devastation,” the report said.
“Among the most egregious examples is an agriculture company accused of using arson attacks and cobras to evict people from their homes. This has been filed as one of a huge dossier of cases at the International Criminal Court, as evidence that Cambodia’s ruling elite has committed land grabbing at such scale that it amounts to crimes against humanity.”
These companies were linked to big international brands such as Apple, Nokia, Visa, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Nestlé, Durex and Honda, and many others.
It said the report should serve as a warning to foreign investors, particularly in China, the largest foreign direct investor in Cambodia with 18 percent in 2015, followed by Britain at a distant three percent.
The United States is Cambodia’s biggest trading partner, receiving a third of Cambodian exports, worth almost $3 billion a year.
The report said no member of the Hun family had ever been prosecuted, even while Hun Sen continues to proactively court investors from overseas and promotes Cambodia as an attractive investment destination with very little regulatory red tape and a cheap labor force.
“These revelations point to a cruel irony of Hun Sen’s model of dictatorship,” Alley said. “His family has Cambodia’s economy so sewn up that Phnom Penh residents are likely to struggle to avoid lining the pockets of their oppressors multiple times a day.”
“Foreign investors, on the other hand, can and should opt out of bankrolling a regime that kills, intimidates or locks up its critics,” he added.
While Hun Sen’s wealth is vast, on a regional level his family effort pales when compared with other regional political families. Malaysia’s Taib Mahmud is by far the richest, with he and his clan amassing a fortune from just one of the country’s states.
Taib ruled the East Malaysian state of Sarawak for 33 years and retired with a family fortune valued at more than $20 billion and held through a network of 400 companies.
A report by the Bruno Manser Fund says Taib is worth $15 billion, while the combined value  of the top 20 members of his family was put at $21 billion. That makes the Taibs the world’s fifth richest family, after the Walton family of Walmart fame. The Huns still have some way to go

~ Thinking outside the box about Cambodia

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Duffy’s Resolution To Honor Hmong Fighters Unanimously Passes Congressional Subcommittee

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Sean Duffy’s (WI-07) resolution to honor the Hmong for “their support and defense of the United States Armed Forces and freedom in Southeast Asia” today passed with a unanimous vote out of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific.
Duffy’s resolution, (H. Res. 210) marks the first time a body of Congress officially honored the Hmong’s efforts in battle. It was cosponsored by 46 other Members of Congress.
Read the resolution in its entirety below:
"Affirming and recognizing the Khmer, Laotian, Hmong, and Montagnard Freedom Fighters and the people of Cambodia and Laos for their support and defense of the United States Armed Forces and freedom in Southeast Asia.
"Whereas the Khmer, Laotian, Hmong, and Montagnard Freedom Fighters (also known as “southeast Asian veterans”) fought and died with United States Armed Forces during the conflict in Southeast Asia;
"Whereas the Khmer, Laotian, Hmong, and Montagnard Freedom Fighters rescued United States pilots shot down in enemy-controlled territory and returned the pilots to safety;
"Whereas the Khmer soldiers retrieved and prevented from falling into enemy hands secret and sensitive information, technology, and equipment;
"Whereas the Khmer, Laotian, Hmong, and Montagnard Freedom Fighters captured and destroyed enemy supplies and prevented enemy forces from using the supplies to kill members of the United States Armed Forces;
"Whereas the Khmer, Laotian, Hmong, and Montagnard Freedom Fighters gathered and provided to the United States Armed Forces intelligence about enemy troop positions, movement, and strength;
"Whereas the Khmer, Laotian, Hmong, and Montagnard Freedom Fighters provided food, shelter, and support to the United States Armed Forces; Whereas the Khmer and National Armed Forces of Cambodia facilitated the evacuation of the United States Embassy in Phnom Penh on April 12, 1975, by continuing to fight Khmer Rouge forces as the forces advanced upon the capital; and Whereas veterans of the Khmer Mobile Guerrilla Forces, the Laotian Special Guerrilla Units, the Khmer Republic Armed Forces, the Hmong, and the Montagnard defended human rights, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of representation and association: Now, therefore, be it
"Resolved, That the House of Representatives affirms and recognizes the Khmer, Laotian, Hmong, and Montagnard Freedom Fighters and the people of Cambodia and Laos for their support and defense of the United States Armed Forces and freedom in Southeast Asia." 
To view the House Resolution 210 online, click HERE.

Gloria Jean's accused of supporting Cambodia's authoritarian family dynasty led by PM Hun Sen
By Southeast Asia correspondent Liam Cochrane
Updated Thu at 8:27am

Australian coffee chain Gloria Jean's and the Australian Red Cross have been criticised for supporting the authoritarian family dynasty led by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.
His niece Hun Kimleng is the "guarantor" of the Gloria Jean's franchise in Cambodia, according to a report from London-based conflict and corruption watchdog Global Witness.
Just last week, the Australian Red Cross ended its funding of the Cambodian Red Cross, which is led by Hun Sen's wife Bun Rany and allegedly uses aid delivery for political purposes.
"Hun Sen and his family control Cambodia's private sector, [in] a huge network of secret deal making, corruption and cronyism that is helping to bankroll the prime minister's dictatorial campaign of violence and oppression," said Global Witness in a statement.
Hun Sen has ruled Cambodia for 31 years.
The vast business links of the Hun family were revealed from corporate registry data published on Cambodia's Ministry of Commerce website.
The Global Witness report — titled Hostile Takeover — links Hun Sen's family members to companies worth at least $268 million, including international brands such as Apple, Nokia, Visa, Unilever, Proctor & Gamble and Honda.
In the list are two Australian brands.
'Really high risk' in Gloria Jean's brand
There are five Gloria Jean's coffee shops in the capital, Phnom Penh, and one store in the temple town of Siem Reap.
"Hun Kimleng is a guarantor of the business entity Gloria Jean's Coffees Co. Ltd which has owned the Master Franchise licence for the Gloria Jean's Coffees Brand System since 2009," a representative of Retail Food Group (RFG) said.
RFG acquired the Gloria Jean's Coffees franchise system in December 2014, taking on hundreds of franchises in Australia and abroad.
"As these Master Franchise Agreements arise for renewal, RFG carefully considers each applicant before proceeding with the grant of a further license," RFG said in a statement sent to the ABC.
"Should there be any evidence of illegal or unlawful behaviour by any of RFG's licensees, a full investigation would be initiated, and appropriate actions taken."
The ABC has received no evidence of illegal activities by Gloria Jean's in Cambodia, but Global Witness said the link to the Prime Minister could damage the coffee chain's reputation.
"I think there's a really high risk to their brand," Patrick Alley from Global Witness said.
"There's nothing to say that politicians or their family members shouldn't be involved in business, but what we are seeing in Cambodia is that various laws, checks and balances are thrown to the wayside to enable the family to get control of particular businesses.
"Too often foreign investors … don't take into account the ethical and moral dimensions in investing in a particular climate or a particular regime that will actually hinder development of that country."

Cambodia's development in recent years has been a mixed story.
The overall economy enjoys a growth rate of around 7 per cent and poverty levels have fallen, yet there are still 3 million "poor people" and over 8.1 million who are "near-poor", according to the World Bank.
Land grabbing is rife, the security forces and courts are used to repress the political opposition and basic human rights are routinely denied.
In May, the United Nations called on Cambodia to stop targeting civil society, human rights defenders, parliamentarians and UN personnel, and to take effective measures to protect civil society and respect fundamental freedoms in the country.
Red Cross 'the humanitarian wing of the CPP'
The Australian Red Cross (ARC) has worked with its Cambodian counterpart since the 1960s.
"Since 1995, our work has focussed on addressing vital humanitarian needs, including rehabilitation for people injured by landmines, HIV prevention, disability inclusion and road safety," director of international programs Peter Walton said.
Mr Walton said the ARC contributed, on average, $253,540 a year to Cambodian Red Cross and stressed that accounted for less than 1.5 per cent of Cambodian Red Cross' annual funding.

The Cambodian Red Cross has a controversial reputation.
"It's been called the humanitarian wing of the Cambodian People's Party (CPP)," Mr Alley said.
"It will hold high-profile events; it will donate to money to various good causes but actually market that as gifts given to Cambodia by the CPP.
"The propaganda value of being associated with must be one of the ultimate international brands — the Red Cross — obviously does give the ruling family a credibility they simply don't deserve."
The funding relationship with the Australian Red Cross ended last week, as part of a wider strategic move.
"As we are now focussing on other countries in the region, especially Pacific Island nations, we are no longer funding programs with Cambodian Red Cross," Mr Walton said.
The ARC has also stopped funding programs in Laos, Thailand, North Korea, China, Vietnam and Maldives.
"No matter where we work or with which partner, we have high standards of accountability for money provided from Australia," Mr Walton said.
The Cambodian Government has made shows at tackling corruption but remains towards the bottom of international graft rankings.
In 2011, more than 25,000 officials were required to declare their assets to the new Anti-Corruption Unit.
Hun Sen declared his wage of $18,000 a year, yet his personal wealth has been estimated at more than $670 million.
"Besides my salary I don't have any other income. But I think my children will support me, they won't let me starve," Hun Sen said.

Strongman Hun Sen Has Cambodia’s Economy ‘Sewn Up,’ Says Report
July 6, 2016 Updated: July 7, 2016 2:40 AM ET

The long-serving leader is accused of building a network of family-linked businesses to solidify his rule

Hun Sen is only 63, but Cambodia’s Prime Minister is already one of the world’s longest-serving leaders. Since 1985, this former Khmer Rouge soldier — who defected and joined a Vietnamese-backed liberation force in the late 1970s — has clung to the top of his country’s politics, by hook or by crook. He technically lost the country’s U.N.-backed elections in 1993, but managed to engineer a situation in which the country had two Prime Ministers for a time. Hun Sen soon left his co-Prime Minister in his wake, and went on to lead the Cambodian People’s Party to four subsequent elections. The victories were not without allegations of vote rigging and intimidation, but Hun Sen has also relied on a system of patronage, blood ties and marital connections that align the country’s business elites, media, police force and the military behind him.

That system is the subject of unique piece of research published on Thursday by Global Witness, the London-based watchdog that calls out grand corruption, environmental abuses and state crimes around the world. In Hostile Takeover: The Corporate Empire of Cambodia’s Ruling Family, the group dives into government data on businesses registered in Cambodia, and unearths a “huge network of secret deal-making, corruption, and cronyism which is helping to secure the prime minister’s political fortress.” Altogether, the group claims, Hun Sen’s family have interests in at least 114 local companies with a combined share capital over $200 million (adding that the sum is likely a vast understatement of the family’s true wealth).

Global Witness alleges that Cambodians who help to prop up his rule are more likely to be granted government contracts, and receive impunity from prosecution — for either the infractions of their companies or their criminality as individuals. “In addition to the Hun family having complete control of the political apparatus of Cambodia, which they’ve had for a long time, they are exploiting [that control] to gain almost total economic control of Cambodia,” Global Witness co-founder Patrick Alley tells TIME.

The report’s real bite is in the details. Three of Hun Sen’s children jointly own a power company that sells electricity to the national grid. Two of the country’s biggest gas station chains are run by companies owned in whole or in part by members of the extended Hun family. Three popular TV stations, a radio station and one of the most-read Khmer-language newspapers are all run by Hun Sen’s eldest daughter, Hun Mana, who also has shares in the largest mobile phone network and owns a leading bottled-water firm.

A number of international brands have links to the Huns, according to Global Witness. The local distributors of Apple’s iPhone, Nokia products, Canon cameras and LG Electronics are all part of the family. Hun Sen’s niece operates the Australian franchise chain Gloria Jeans Coffees and the Hard Rock Cafe in Cambodia. The Prime Minister’s younger sister, meanwhile, holds major stakes in the companies that import Johnnie Walker whisky, Hennessy cognac, Durex condoms and Nescafe. These foreign companies are not accused of breaking any laws, but are asked to consider whether it is wise to have dealings with the family of a ruler who is dogged by allegations of human-rights abuses.

Seen together, it becomes clear that the reach of the family’s business mean that most Cambodians are buying from them, or using their services in some way, on a daily basis. “Amongst the cruelest ironies of the Hun Sen model of dictatorship is that many Cambodians (particularly the country’s growing middle class) will struggle to avoid lining their oppressors’ pockets multiple times a day,” the report says. This all goes some way to explain why Hun Sen, whose official salary is reportedly less than $14,000 a year, owns multiple palatial residences, and takes credit for making large personal donations to domestic causes.

Out of 27 Hun family members contacted by Global Witness, only one gave a substantial response. Sok Puthyvuth — a son-in-law of the Prime Minister who is also the son of Sok An, one of Hun Sen’s deputies and a major power broker — wrote to the group’s investigators that, rather than abusing his connections to build his business, “I take seriously the challenge of building a responsible and respected private sector group.” He adds: “I understand that I live in the shadows of my family.”

The allegation that Cambodia is a kleptocracy is not new. Sustained economic growth and impressive figures for poverty relief have given Hun Sen’s rule a sheen of respectability on the world stage, however. He recently got his first official invite to the U.S., and shook hands with President Obama during a summit for Southeast Asian leaders in Sunnylands, Calif., in February. Last month, Hun Sen struck a statesman-like pose at a World Economic Forum event in Malaysia, where, in a fine tailored suit, the Prime Minister expounded on regional economic integration.

“I would hope our report reminds people what we’re actually talking about here,” says Alley. “The fact is, Cambodia is a de facto dictatorship and it’s likely to be a dynastic one,” he adds. Hun Sen’s eldest son, Hun Manet — already a lieutenant general in Cambodia’s army — is rumored to be set to succeed Hun Sen, although the elder has pledged to stay in power until he’s at least 74.

Global Witness is calling for the Hun family to declare all its assets, and for Hun Sen to step aside from his controlling roles in Cambodia’s regulatory and investment bodies and its anticorruption unit — all of which means Hun Sen has the country’s economy “sewn up,” says Alley.

Despite the appearance of total control, however, Hun Sen’s grip has appeared to slip of late. The opposition, which formed a united front in 2013 to make big gains in national elections that year, is able to sidestep the ruling-party-dominated traditional media using Facebook. In response, more than 20 government critics, including opposition lawmakers, have been jailed in the past year, but Hun Sen’s winning streak could be coming to an end.
“Interestingly, young Cambodians have increasingly discussed and vocally criticized the unfair and unjust practices in the society such as prevailing corruption, nepotism and power abuses since the last national election 2013,” Ou Ritthy, a political blogger based in Phnom Penh, tells TIME. “The young become the hopeful agents of political change in Cambodia and the ruling party is likely to lose the upcoming national elections 2018 if the electoral management is free, fair and genuine.”

After the report’s publication Thursday, Hun Mana responded on Facebook, accusing Global Witness of “try[ing] to tarnish my Father reputation [sic]” ahead of the elections. “Anyhow, we thank you for your destructive efforts, which as a consequence will help my father in the coming election as they are all lies and deceitful to confuse the public about what my Father has accomplished,” she wrote, warning that local media organizations could be “liable” for publishing the report’s allegations.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

'Stranglehold': Hun Sen rules Cambodia
and his family own it, says report
Relatives of autocratic PM control economy’s most profitable sectors from mining to gambling and property, according to findings of Global Witness project

A transparency watchdog has alleged a “stranglehold” on the Cambodian economy by the family of Hun Sen – one of the world’s most notorious autocrats, who has ruled the south-east Asian country across three decades.
Investigators from UK-based Global Witness who traced corporate ownership said they had uncovered numerous examples where companies linked to members of the Hun family managed to secure lucrative public contracts and state concessions to amass vast fortunes.
Firms associated with the Hun family span the majority of Cambodia’s most lucrative business sectors, including trade, finance, energy and tourism, according to the report, while also operating within a number of sectors notorious for corruption including gambling, construction, agriculture and mining.
In some cases these companies have driven “devastating impacts for Cambodian citizens and the environment, including land grabs that have caused mass displacements and destitution among Cambodia’s rural poor”, Global Witness says.
The report found the Hun family owned or part-controlled companies with capital of more than US$200m, including firms with links to major international brands such as Apple, Nokia, Visa, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Nestlé, Durex and Honda.
Global Witness said this was likely just a fraction of the true value of the family’s business holdings as they were said to obscure their commercial interests.
“These revelations point to a cruel irony of Hun Sen’s model of dictatorship – his family has Cambodia’s economy so sewn up that Phnom Penh residents are likely to struggle to avoid lining the pockets of their oppressors multiple times a day,” said Patrick Alley, Co-Founder of Global Witness.
“Foreign investors, on the other hand, can and should opt out of bankrolling a regime that kills, intimidates or locks up its critics.”
Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge commander, has marketed his country to overseas investors as an attractive investment destination with very little regulation and cheap labour.
Yet despite overall economic growth, six million Cambodians, 40% of the population, still live below or close to the poverty line. And in 2015 Cambodia ranked 150th out of 168 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, the lowest score in south-east Asia.
The leader’s tenure has been characterised by electoral fraud and the brutal suppression of political opposition. In 2011 Hun said that if anyone tried to hold a demonstration against his rule “I will beat all those dogs and put them in a cage.”
In May 2016 journalists were instructed to use his full title “Lord Prime Minister and Supreme Military Commander” when writing about Hun Sen.
In 103 of the 114 private companies where Hun Sen’s immediate family have declared interests, the relative is a chairperson, director or has a shareholding of more than 25%, meaning they exercise total or substantial control, the report says.
Stephen Peel, a former senior partner at private equity firm TPG Capital and member of the Global Witness board, said: “[Doing] business with companies that are owned or controlled by the country’s ruling family not only raises ethical questions, it also carries significant legal, financial and reputational risk.”
The UK is the second-largest foreign investor in Cambodia after China, while the US is Cambodia’s biggest trading partner, receiving a third of Cambodian exports, worth almost US$3bn a year.
Hun Sen’s eldest daughter, Hun Mana, has the largest number of business holdings of any member of the family, the report finds, with interests in 22 companies with listed share capital of more than $66m.
She owns 100% of the shares of media company Bayon Media, which broadcasts three TV stations, and also Bayon Radio, which is considered to be one of the leading mouthpieces of the ruling party.
Hun Mana chairs Moon Media, an advertising firm behind a large proportion of the billboards around the country. The company’s client list on its website includes Visa, Unilever, Proctor & Gamble and Honda.
She is also a director and shareholder of K Thong Huot Telecom, which was founded in 2002 to distribute Nokia phones in Cambodia. The firm is the local business partner of Lenovo-IBM and holds exclusive distribution licences for Pioneer and Electrolux products.
The prime minister’s office, Moon Media and Bayon Media did not respond to Guardian requests for comment. The Guardian was unable to reach K Thong Huot Telecom.
Other prominent family members with business links include Hun Sen’s son-in-law Sok Puthyvuth, the CEO of the Soma Group, which signed a $3m biomass power deal with US conglomerate General Electric in 2012.
Soma Group, which did not respond to a request for comment for this article, is also linked to an urban land grab, Global Witness says, as the firm is expanding Phnom Penh International Airport.
The project threatens to displace approximately 165 households without providing compensation. In 2012 eight protesters from the community were arrested by armed police and detained for 12 hours after painting SOS signs on the roofs of their houses in the hope that President Obama would see their cries for help as he flew in to attend an Asean summit.
Global Witness said Sok Puthyvuth was the only Hun family member to reply to its requests for comment.
It quoted him as saying that his family had objected to his taking a role in politics so he entered the private sector “to test my ability to build an effective organisation”.
“I can understand your assumption that I have abused my power to get to where I am today, but I can assure you that I take seriously the challenge of building a responsible and respected private sector group. I admit it is a work in progress.
“I understand that I live in the shadows of my family.”

How Far Will This Strongman Go to Keep Power?
By Daniel Malloy
JUL 062016

As the results trickled in, Hun Sen did not like what he could see with his one good eye. It was 1993, Cambodia was staging its first free election in decades under direction of the United Nations, and the prime minister had entered the vote confident that his leadership — not to mention an intimidation campaign against his foes — would deliver victory.
But his Cambodian People’s Party narrowly lost to the royalists, and Hun Sen destroyed the television, a CNN article related. He then set about playing at blindness, as though he’d never seen any of the broadcast at all. Hun Sen engineered a “secession” of part of the country, garnering himself leverage for a power-sharing deal that put him on equal footing with the victors, whom he proceeded to shove aside in a 1997 coup. Since then, he has continued to fend off challenges — and though an election looms in 2018, Hun Sen, whose party did not reply to multiple requests for comment, has no intention of losing again. He is combining an increasingly broad crackdown against his opposition with a makeover as a man of the people, honed through — what else? — Facebook.
Authoritarians hold sway across Southeast Asia: Vietnam and Laos are one-party Communist states, Thailand is run by a military junta that’s delaying scheduled elections, and the Philippines just elected a Trump-like figure who’s talked of killing criminals himself. Cambodia seems freer — but in recent months, the country of some 15 million has witnessed crackdowns against the opposition party, suggesting the wind might be blowing in the direction of the rest of the region. A lawmaker was jailed over Facebook posts. A U.N. official and others close with opposition leaders were arrested on charges of bribing a woman to not admit being the mistress of a prominent opposition minister. That leader, Kem Sokha, is in hiding; an arrest warrant awaits him. The election here, still two years away, is being discussed as a litmus test for whether a semblance of representative government could survive.
It doesn’t look good: Hun Sen has defied European Union warnings against his tactics and declared outfit coordination a crime in response to a group of black-clad protesters. “The scope and breadth is unprecedented,” says Sophal Ear, a professor at Occidental College in California and author of Aid Dependence in Cambodia: How Foreign Assistance Undermines Democracy, Ear compares Sen’s measures to a soap opera. Indeed, it seemed like a half-baked operatic script, perhaps one inspired by Kim Jong Il, when the government demanded the media use “Lord Prime Minister and Supreme Military Commander Hun Sen” on first reference, or risk legal repercussions. The request was laughed off by an international press with a robust presence in Cambodia, but Khmer-language media are likely to fall in line.
And why? Sebastian Strangio, a Phnom Penh–based journalist and author of Hun Sen’s Cambodia, says the man “knows his country well. He’s able to understand the wants and desires of rural people. He is [one] himself.” Born in 1952 to rice and tobacco farmers, Hun Sen spent his childhood as an errand boy for monks, being educated in a Buddhist pagoda. He joined the Communist rebellion against the American-backed government — losing his left eye in one battle, and gaining quite a story — eventually becoming a commander in the Khmer Rouge.
He escaped to Vietnam, avoiding the genocide, and returned when the Vietnamese invaded to toss out Pol Pot. Hun Sen became the effective leader of the country in 1985 and has barely twitched since. He never had much of an ideology, ditching Communism when convenient and adopting the jargon of international development, even as he used force to cling to power. Mocking the West’s notions of how to run his country, a favorite phrase became: “International standards exist only in sports.”
As the nation’s quality of life has risen — the country’s growth rate of around 7 percent a year since 2011 is one of the best and most consistent in the world — so have expectations. The youth movement is focused on inequality, and is less appreciative of the unprecedented stability of the era. “They’re victims of their own success in a way,” Strangio said, adding that the leader’s politics have “fallen out of sync with the needs and desires of the younger generation.” The ruling party nearly lost the 2013 elections, and the leader responded with a charm offensive, posting Facebook videos of himself mingling with foreign leaders such as Vladimir Putin, dancing with his wife and distributing water in drought-stricken areas. He now has 4 million likes on his Facebook page, though the Phnom Penh Post reported that most of them are from overseas, forcing Hun Sen to deny charges that he’s paid for fake followers.
As the crackdown continues, watch for the 2017 World Economic Forum on ASEAN. WEF head Klaus Schwab, Ear pointed out, fancies himself a peacemaker and once helped broker a rapprochement between Nelson Mandela and South African leaders. (WEF spokesman Georg Schmitt declined to comment on Cambodia but said the group closely monitors political situations in host countries.)
In the meantime, the Facebook Live–loving strongman is happy to be gazed upon — on his terms. In June, he got on a motorbike belonging to an apparently unsuspecting member of the public, then gave the man a short ride. He streamed the whole thing. Viewers noted the prime minister was not wearing a helmet, and Hun Sen apologized, accepting his $3.75 fine, in a wink to critics who’d say he fancies himself above the law.
This story has been updated: An earlier version misstated Sophal Ear’s employer. It is Occidental College, not Occidental University. Additionally, an earlier version misstated the name of the forum Cambodia is scheduled to host next year. It is the World Economic Forum on ASEAN, not the World Economic Forum on East Asia.