PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: Cambodia's government began preparations Monday for the funeral of the country's controversial national police chief, a close ally of Prime Minister Hun Sen who was killed in a helicopter crash.
Police Commissioner-General Hok Lundy, 51, died Sunday night when the helicopter he was traveling in crashed in Svay Rieng province in southeastern Cambodia, apparently because of bad weather.
Hok Lundy had a reputation for ruthlessness as well as loyalty to Hun Sen, whose son is married to the late police chief's daughter.
"His death is bound to be a significant loss to Prime Minister Hun Sen" with whom he had both good working and personal relationships, said Lao Monghay, a senior researcher of Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission.
Police Lt. Gen. Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, which oversees the police force, described Hok Lundy's death as "a great national loss and a profound sorrow for the police force."
Last year, the New York-based group Human Rights Watch urged the U.S. government to cancel a visa issued to Hok Lundy to attend an FBI-sponsored conference on human trafficking, accusing him of having ordered an extrajudicial killing and involvement in drug smuggling and human trafficking.
Cambodian government officials dismissed the Human Rights Watch allegations as nonsense.
Hok Lundy attended the conference, though the U.S. had denied him a visa in early 2006 for reasons never made public.
Hok Lundy's helicopter lost contact with air controllers about 15 minutes after it took off from the capital, Phnom Penh, on Sunday, Khieu Sopheak said. He said bad weather was likely responsible, but an investigation is under way.