The FBI Visit Cambodia
Dave was an American working in Cambodia; a good looking, charming man, thirty-eight years old and a really nice guy. He represented a few companies in the States that sold power tools, heavy machinery, plumbing fixtures, electrical equipment-things like that.
Cambodian Generals were appropriating land left and right and building palatial estates in the countryside. They all needed imported building supplies, machinery, luxury bathroom and kitchen fixtures. Business was great and Dave was living well, making a pile of money and consorting with the upper echelon of Cambodian society, if corrupt generals, politicians and ruthless businessmen can be considered society. Dave spoke perfect Khmer and kept a high profile, entertaining his customers at expensive restaurants and night clubs.
One day the prime minister sent for him. Dave thought it might be a new business opportunity and that he was finally breaking into the really big time but he was wrong.
When Dave kept his appointment, Hun Sen wasted no time with pleasantries like saying hello. He got right to the point and this is what he said. I know this because Dave told Jack and Jack told me.
Listen white boy. You think you are living grandly here? Having fun socializing with my generals? You are nothing but a piece of dirt under my foot. I will step on you any time that I want. You are not to see General so & so again. (I don’t know the general’s name) Do you understand me? Get out. That was it. Blunt and to the point.
Dave understood very well and he obeyed. The next month was the Water Festival, held during the week of the full moon in October and celebrating the reversal of the flow of the Toney Sap River. Boat races are held opposite the Royal Palace. Up to a million people crowd into Phnom Penh from the provinces to be a part of the festivities and watch the races. Long boats, with fifty or sixty men in a boat, race over the three day festival. All of these guys paddling rapidly and strongly in perfect synchronization is really a sight to see. The towns and villages in Cambodia enter their own teams and the races are quite close. It’s pretty exciting.
There’s a grandstand built for the dignitaries. Dave was walking by when the General waved to him from the stands.
Now Dave only had two choices. To keep on walking and make the General lose face in front of all his friends or to run up and say a fast hello. Dave did the latter. He made it quick. No harm done he thought.
The town was alive with people and parties. Dave was eating dinner in a fancy restaurant with a group of army officers that same evening when he fell over dead, his hands tightly clenched into fists. A sure sign of being poisoned they say.
It was my friend Jack’s duty to call Dave’s parents with the news. Jack urged them to notify the Federal Bureau of Investigation whose province it is to investigate the deaths of Americans abroad. The parents refused. They just wanted to bury their son at home.
Dave had told Jack about seeing Hun Sen. Jack was sure that the Prime Minister was behind Dave’s death.
I’m going to notify the FBI myself. Jack was furious.
Listen Jack, I said. The poor guy is dead. Forget about it. You’re going to end up with a bullet in the back.
But Jack would not let it go. He was determined to have an investigation into the death of his friend.
Jack’s been in Cambodia a long time and knows a lot of people. He prevailed upon the secretary to the American Ambassador to request an investigation. Three special agents were sent over. For some reason or other every single one of them is called a special agent and these three were good men I am sure. They were there for two days looking into Dave’s death and they received a death threat.
And what do you think happened?
They beat it back to America.
What? Impossible you say? The FBI intimidated? No way.
Well, it was done very smoothly and the intrigue went off without a hitch. The investigation was abruptly ended.
The Cambodian Government has a branch of plainclothes police who work closely with foreign law enforcement. They act as liaisons and generally help any investigations. But not this time. Things were just a bit too touchy. The Cambodian Police called the American Special Agents into the office and told them very confidentially that they had good information from an impeccable source that the agents were about to be murdered. Now the Cambodia Government would certainly be willing to provide the FBI Agents with all of the protection and men that they needed and they would cooperate with them in every way possible if they decided to stay. The information that they claimed to have received and claimed is probably the operative word here is that the agents would not go down in a hail of gun fire but they would be run over by a very large speeding truck.
Now as many men that the Cambodian Government would supply to protect them no one would exactly be crossing the street hand in hand with the special agents either.
Would the agents be kind enough to help them in preventing an international incident?
Diplomatic relations between the two countries were in danger, along with their lives, and after all the FBI had already completed two days of solid investigation so they had done their jobs, hadn’t they?
The Federal Agents were intelligent people and they decided that discretion really is the better part of valor and hell, they were leaving for the sake of their country.
And that’s how the Federal Bureau of Investigation was chased out of Cambodia.
True or not, who knows? But one thing’s for sure, threats from aggrieved, powerful locals should be taken seriously in these parts.