I am writing to thank you for your concern on
behalf my friend Graham Cleghorn. I worked with Graham during 1992-3 while
a US Army Captain assigned to the UN Mission. I was assigned as the
Operations Officer in Siem Reap responsible for the Multi-National Observer
Teams spread across Northeastern Cambodia.
As an Unarmed Military Observer interested in
defusing possible conflict points between the still warring factions, I
found Graham a wealth of information. He had worked and lived with the
Cambodians in the Refugee Camps in Thailand for many years as a paramedic.
He related that he was familiar with many in the Royal Family and that he
had assisted them in leaving the country which earned him the emnity of Hun
Sen's political party. As you know Hun Sen is a former Khmer Rouge Officer
who was convinced by the Vietnamese to defect. He was installed as
figurehead in 1976 - a position he has held ever since because he would not
give up power after a free election in 1993.
After these elections many of the supporters of
the opposition party in Siem Reap started disappearing by murder or
imprisonment. Graham related this to me, and advised me of schemes to
displace him and steal his property, which was favourably located on the
road to the Temples of Angkor Wat. Graham’s bar/restaurant was the only
successful one on this road, though several were started by Cambodian Army
Officers hoping to cash in on the tourist trade. I consider the charges
against Graham to be nothing more than a scheme to enable some very corrupt
people to "legally" take his land.
Graham of course had young women working in his
restaurant, which seemed to be part of the attraction, as was the western
food he served and his friendly, helpful manner. I suppose these young
girls were his "Achilles Heel" that the corrupt NGOs could
exploit. Traditional Cambodian society considers girls working at places
like Graham's to be prostitutes. I can assure you the Brothels were already
well established all over Siem Reap and Graham's place wasn't one of them.
These girls were obviously poor and from surrounding villages. They were
given room and board. Having watched other young girls being sold to
brothel owners, I considered the ones working for Graham quite fortunate.
The Cambodian Army, Police and High Officials loved to appear high minded
and pious, but greatly enjoyed the illegal Brothel trade which existed all
around the City of Siem Reap.
I recall one occasion when Graham and I heard a
rifle shoot at about 11 PM very near to his business. He and I both went to
investigate. We discovered that a Cambodian Soldier and a Policeman had
become embroiled in a heated argument over an issue at the Brothel, which
was approximately 150 meters from Grahams place. The UN CIVPOL (Civilian
Police) would not investigate much, particularly after 5 PM. I also recall
investigating Cambodian Soldiers attempting to shoot ripe mangos out of
trees nearby - the concept of danger to the surrounding populace not being
one easily grasped by the soldiers, so I took their ammo. On one occasion I
came across a drunken Cambodian Army Officer in a car sitting in front of
Graham's business waving around a pistol while telling the people to vote "correctly"
in the upcoming election or else. Graham, seeing me stop and talk with the
drunk, moved closer to the car to assist me if necessary. I then took the
drunk's pistol, unloaded it and put it in the truck, and removed his radio
so reinforcements would not show up. Graham later returned the hand held
radio to the drunken officer. Graham and I would drive around the perimeter
of the city every night to observe and report on things. As you can see,
his very association with the UN personnel was enough to garner the ire of
the CPAF (Cambodian Army).
Graham’s association with certain high level ANKI
(Royalist Faction Army), KPLNAF (Gen Lon Nols fighters) and certain members
of the Royal Family that he assisted, gave some protection to him during
the civil war period. Once the threat of armed forces against them left,
the CPAF turned it's attention to the white devils that were against them.
The point of my letter to you is not to regale you with stories of danger
and intrigue, it's to try and show that Graham has always been their enemy
because he tried to do the right thing. He is just a man who has been
caught in between the forces of greed and corrupt judicial power. Not much
has really changed in Cambodia. As for the circumstances around his arrest,
I cannot write as I was not in the country at that time. I am merely trying
to show that the deck has always been stacked against him and as a
foreigner with valuable property, he was a target.
The judge in Graham's case was involved in the
original attempt to "liberate" his land and his hands are dirty.
It would seem this Cambodians Women's Group is a front for an enormously
effect scam which has already worked well in attracting money. They do not
want the good times to stop and so a prosecution every once in a while to
the delight of their patrons is just what the police and judges order.
Thank you again for shining a light in a very
dark place and helping my friend Graham. I wish you could meet and know
Graham as he is man with high principles that would not cave in to the
graft and corruption all around him. We fear for his health and life as
living in a Cambodian Prison is only conducive to an early grave. Thank you again.