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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

US Representatives' letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates questioning the US military assistance to Cambodian "human rights VIOLATORS"

Congress of the United States
Washington DC 20515
September 18, 2009

The Honorable Robert M. Gates
Secretary of Defense
The Pentagon Room 3E 880
Washington DC 20301

Dear Secretary Gates:

We write today to bring to your attention concerns regarding U.S. assistance in the form of Foreign Military Financing (FMF) to the Kingdom of Cambodia. As you know, the United States has provided approximately $4.5 million in FMF used for training and material assistance to Cambodian military, police, and counterterror units since 2006. According to testimony from Human Rights Watch at a Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing on September 10, such training and assistance "has been offered to elite units that are notorious for the impunity enjoyed by their members, as well as to personnel from Prime Minister Hun Sen's bodyguard unit which has been implicated in countless rights abuses including a political massacre, under the cover of a newly created special anti-terrorism unit."

While the United States should work with foreign governments to professionalize and train security forces to respect human rights and the rule of law, we must ensure that such assistance and training is not awarded to members of the security forces that have committed serious human rights violations and continue to operate with impunity.

Enclosed please find the testimony of Human Rights Watch which was submitted for the record and details serious abuses by members of the Prime Minister's Bodyguard Unit, Brigade 70, Special Airborne Brigade 911 and Brigade 31 of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF).

Given the nature of the abuses detailed in the enclosed testimony, we ask that the Department of Defense please provide answers to the following questions:

* What U.S.-funded training has been provided to RCAF's Special Airborne 911, RCAF's Brigade 70 and the Prime Minister's Bodyguard Unit?
* Have members ofRCAF's Special Airborne Brigade 911, Brigade 70, or members of the Prime Minister's Bodyguard Unit traveled to the United States to receive U.S.-government funded training or on other official business? If so, what was the purpose of the travel? What vetting procedures were used before they traveled?
* What equipment or other material support has been provided by the U.S. government to Special Airborne Brigade 911, Brigade 70, the Counter-Terrorism Task Force, the Prime Minister's Bodyguard Unit, or any other security services?
* What U.S.-funded training has been provided to Cambodia's National CounterTerrorism Committee, the National Counter Terrorism Task Force and the Counter-Terrorism Special Forces Unit?
* How many members of the Counter-Terrorism Special Forces unit come from the Prime Minister's Bodyguard Unit? Do they retain their positions at the Bodyguard unit?
* What actions have been taken to establish the identities of the Bodyguard unit personnel who were present during the March 30, 1997, grenade attack against the opposition Khmer Nation Party, and to ensure that these individuals are not included in any U.S.-sponsored training of RCAF forces?

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We look forward to receiving your response.

Best wishes.


Signatures of the following US Members of Congress:

Frank R. Wolf
James P. Moran
Edward R. Royce
Maurice D. Hinchey
Tammy Baldwin
Mark E. Souder
Christopher H. Smith
Niki Tsongas

---Original Attached

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