Graham Cleghorn….victim of injustice in Cambodia?

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Phnom Penh Post,
June 24 2006
(Published Issue 15/13, June 30-July 13 2006


Judge Tan Senarong

I am writing to clarify a statement which appeared in the Phnom Penh Post dated 16-29 June, 2006 in an article "Sex-convict Lauwaert not as lucky as his housemate" and "Investigation into CWCC". As a judge, I take my responsibility and obligation to the State and citizens very seriously and believe in complete transparency. I feel very strongly that the misstatements and inaccurate information which has been published in this article damage both my professional and personal reputation and thus, I hope that you will publish this letter so I can set the record straight.

In your article dated16-19 June, 2006, you state that I was involved in the Graham Cleghorn case at the Siem Reap provincial court, "that I presided over the original trial, colluded with my sister who is a prominent CWCC member to put Cleghorn in prison so he could be blackmailed for valuable land he owned near Angkor Wat." In response to these inaccurate statements, let me state the following:

1.                  I never "presided" over the original trial in the Cleghorn case. At the time of this case, I was working as a judge in the Phnom Penh court. I have never had any involvement in the Cleghorn case.

2.                  I have absolutely no knowledge of any land matters involving Mr.Cleghorn and I certainly have no interest whatsoever in any land he may or may not own near Angkor Wat. I will like to pose one question however - if the Constitution and domestic laws of Cambodia provide that only Khmer can own land, how is it possible that a foreigner "owns land" near Angkor Wat? Perhaps you should check your sources.

3.                  I do have a sister who works for CWCC. She works for CWCC's Siem Reap office in the Reintegration Unit. Reintegration work is not at all involved in investigation of cases; on the contrary, reintegration is the "end" phase of a process to get victims of abuse and exploitation safely home again.

4.                  Nonetheless, I have never discussed the Cleghorn case with my sister as first of all, I was not involved in this case; second, this is not my sister's function or role at CWCC and finally, it would not have been appropriate.

5.                  Here is an original case number (Graham Cleghorn at Siem Reap court) 86 dated February 25,2003, the investigating judge lang Mealdey and trial judge Plang Chhlam.

Your reference to my involvement in the Cleghorn case has resulted in an inference of a conflict of interest on my part. I take this accusation very seriously. As I stated above, my profession as a judge is very important to me and I try my level best to be a fair and just jurist. Many judges in Cambodia are striving for this same level of professionalism and to cast doubt on my work and my motives is to cast a dark shadow on the Cambodian judiciary which improves daily in terms of independence and professionalism.

I think that Mr Frans van Dijk, Regional Director, SE Terre Des Hommes Netherlands stated correctly that Cambodians should be proud of their legal system which has brought two sex offenders to court and of organizations like the CWCC (see the Cambodia Daily dated June 19, 2006) It is time to stop being manipulated by people who have only sympathy for sex offenders and contempt for Cambodia's civil society. It is time to protect women and children and stop circulating inaccurate information, innuendo and rumors. If we all put our energies in this direction, we can make this a safer country for our most vulnerable segments of society.

Judge Tan Senarong - Phnom Penh, 24 June 2006