Friday, April 25, 1997

David Pugliese
Southam Newspapers

p. A11.

Canadian officers abused Cambodians during UN mission

Officials were concerned about the "political fallout" if the public found out, a military report says.

OTTAWA — Documents show Canadian officers on the United Nation's mission to Cambodia physically and verbally abused Cambodians and were accused of running a prostitution and gun-smuggling ring.

Military police reports obtained by the Ottawa Citizen under the Access to Information Act show that a Canadian naval officer involved in the 1992-93 mission regularly called Cambodians "gooks" and "slant-eyes." In one case witnesses said he pushed a Cambodian ship captain who made a mistake during the operation of a boat.

In another incident, an officer grabbed Cambodia's minister of tourism by the neck in an argument over how much rent the officer was paying.

The officer also took fellow Canadians on a tour of a refugee camp, yelling obscenities and racist epithets at refugees, according to witness statements. That prompted the refugees to spit at the UN officials as they drove through the camp.

Military police also investigated allegations that another Canadian officer was smuggling guns and operating a prostitution ring in Cambodia. The investigation, which ran from 1993 to 1994, could find no solid evidence the officer was involved in either activity.

Police reports noted, however, that the officer carried around an illegal handgun at times during the mission, a violation of UN rules that require military observers to be unarmed.

The allegations came from Canadian military personnel in Cambodia. The documents do not indicate if any disciplinary action was ever taken and the problems seemed confined to a few individuals not identified in the records.

Canada contributed about 80 military personnel to the Cambodian mission.

There did not appear to be any attempt by senior military officials to remove those at the centre of the allegations from their positions of authority.

But the heavily censored files show senior officials were concerned the public might find out about the incidents and the resulting "political fallout."

The Cambodia investigations were being conducted just as the Somalia scandal was hitting the front pages.

Military officials handled the files as if they contained extremely top-secret information because of the "political impact should such allegations be founded," according to one document. When the documents were transferred between military offices they were put into two envelopes and hand-delivered by officials.

Among the incidents investigated during the Cambodia mission:

  • A Canadian officer filmed himself and his girlfriend having sex. The scenes were added to a video produced on the Cambodian mission that was sent to military offices in Canada. At one point the video was played for soldiers and an American guest at a Toronto armory.
  • An officer was alleged to be running a prostitution ring in Cambodia using eight Vietnamese women. The officer said he had given his Cambodian girlfriend $1,300 U.S. to open a hair salon/massage parlor. It was believed in some military circles the Canadian was procuring women for Canadian and British members of the UN contingent.

— Ottawa Citizen

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Created: April 25, 1997
Last modified: February 2, 2001
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