April 24, 2007 / 10:02 PM / in 11 years

U.S. presses Cambodia police chief on trafficking

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Tuesday urged Cambodia’s police chief, himself once a target of U.S. questions over human trafficking, to do more to address the problem and prosecute officials involved in such crimes.

Senior U.S. officials met Cambodia’s top police officer, Hok Lundy, at the State Department amid criticism from human rights groups and others that a visa was granted to the police chief in the first place because of questions about his past.

“(The State Department officials) urged Lundy and the Cambodian police to strengthen significantly their efforts to combat trafficking in persons, which remains a serious problem in Cambodia,” the State Department said after the meeting.

“They also urged that Cambodia make much greater efforts to prosecute and convict public officials, including police officers, who are involved in trafficking, and that Commissioner General Lundy make the police more responsive to trafficking issues,” it added in a statement.

Lundy, who was in Washington chiefly for counter-terrorism talks with the FBI, was refused a U.S. visa in 2005 because of “what was believed to be credible evidence of complicity in human trafficking,” former senior State Department official John Miller told Reuters last week.

Asked whether Lundy was asked to address accusations against him during his talks with senior officials, a State Department spokesman declined to provide further details about the meeting.

Lundy previously has rejected charges of human trafficking, but Miller said the police chief is suspected of playing a role in freeing eight traffickers hours after they were seized in a raid in Cambodia.

According to the Human Rights Watch group, Lundy also is suspected of being part of a conspiracy to carry out a grenade attack on opposition leader Sam Rainsy in March 1997. The attack killed 16 people and injured more than 150.

“The statement does not address the most serious allegations against him, and the key question is, did they raise any of those unresolved political killings?” said Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch.

U.S. officials who attended Tuesday’s meeting included Chris Hill, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, and Anne Patterson, assistant secretary for international narcotics and law enforcement.

Despite criticism over human trafficking and other human rights issues, the U.S. officials noted improved cooperation between the United States and Cambodia on fighting drugs and terrorism, the State Department said.

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