Cambodian Leader’s Family Is Profiting From His Position,
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.