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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ex-KR chief and police play cat-and-mouse

Ex-KR chief and police play cat-and-mouse

Former Khmer Rouge commander Chhouk Rin is on the run from authorities after the

Supreme Court issued an arrest warrant for him on terrorism charges.

Conflicting accounts of Chhouk Rin's whereabouts have emerged in the past few days,

but police in Kampot province have told the Post they are planning an operation to

apprehend the ailing 53-year-old.

"I predict that he will not go far, but arresting him will not be easy like

catching a chicken," said In Chiva, deputy police chief of Kampot, who said

he was managing the plan to arrest Rin.

Rin's village, Chamkar Bei, Phnom Voar commune, is home to many demobilized Khmer

Rouge soldiers.

Chiva said that the prospect of facing residents loyal to Rin meant that careful

planning was needed to avoid putting his men in danger.

On February 16, the Supreme Court upheld a 2003 Appeals Court decision to convict

Rin on terrorism charges for his part in a 1994 train attack that left 13 Cambodians

dead and saw the kidnap and killing of three western backpackers.

Rin was given a life sentence but did not attend the Supreme Court hearing. Kampot

prosecutor, Uk Kimsith, said he issued an arrest warrant on February 22 and sent

it to local authorities the same day.

Rin told Agence France-Presse on February 22 that he was confident of avoiding arrest,

and had passed the time since his conviction collecting firewood and watching cockfights

near his home.

"I will play hide and seek with authorities and if they can find me they can

arrest me," said Rin by telephone.

"The verdict is an injustice to me. I did not join the killings, I am not guilty,"

Rin told AFP. "I have no fear of arrest, because that is the law."

"I am staying at my home. I did not go to hide in the jungle," said Rin.

However, his wife, Yem Sav, told the Post on February 23 that Rin had gone to Phnom

Penh four days ago to seek medical treatment at a "secret place". Sav said

she did not want him to return to Phnom Voar because she feared he would be apprehended.

Sav said police with guns had looked around her property on February 23, but she

locked herself inside her wooden stilt house and the police left without speaking

to her or searching the house.

Sav said several days before his conviction was upheld, Rin realized he would be

arrested or forced to flee and told her the truth about his illnesses.

"'I have the HIV virus besides my diseases, I'm afraid it has transmitted to

you,'" Sav quoted her husband as saying, adding that he had known about his

HIV status for five years.

Sav said Rin, who also has tuberculosis and Hepatitis C, had become more ill since

hearing the Supreme Court result and she did not expect him to live much longer.

"There's no need to arrest him, after he dies I will send his bones to the prison,"

said Sav.

Rin was the Khmer Rouge's chief commander of Kampong Trach district, where the train

attack took place, although he claimed he was incapacitated by a land mine injury

at the time. He left the Khmer Rouge to join the government forces in an amnesty

deal struck in September 1996.

Rin was charged with organized crime, murder, robbery, illegal confinement, intentional

wrongful damage to property and terrorism. However, the panel of five Supreme Court

judges only considered the terrorism charge because it carried a life sentence, the

most severe punishment allowed under Cambodian law.

Rin's lawyer, Puth Theavy, said at the Supreme Court hearing that he would seek a

Royal Pardon for his client who he had last seen on the morning of February 15.

Outside the court, Jean Claude Braquet, the father of the French backpacker Michel

Braquet, expressed his relief at the verdict.

"I can find justice for my son, I trust the Cambodian authorities to arrest

Chhouk Rin," said Braquet, who has made 10 trips to the kingdom since 1994.

Braquet's claim for $450,000 compensation was sent back to the Appeals Court. Dorothy

Slater, mother of the English victim Mark Slater, lowered her compensation claim

to $25,000, an amount similar to that asked for by Cambodian families involved.

"She chooses this amount therefore to say the life of her son is worth the same

as all the other people killed in this attack," said Slater's lawyer, George

Cooper.

Railway official, Suon Sarin, said ambushes and landmines killed 1,521 people travelling

on Cambodia's two train lines between 1979 and 1996. Sarin said the three backpackers

murdered in 1994 were the only foreigners recorded to have died.

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