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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - I want Sam Bith's head, says Aussie Downer

I want Sam Bith's head, says Aussie Downer


Sam Bith, left, accused of kidnapping and murdering three westerners, and Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, who wants him behind bars without further delay

THE Australian Government has renewed calls for the arrest and prosecution of RCAF

General Sam Bith for his alleged involvement in the kidnapping and subsequent murder

of an Australian backpacker and his British and French companions in 1994.

Australian concerns about the lack of official action in the case of Bith, who was

charged along with fellow former Khmer Rouge commander Chhouk Rin in January for

his role in the kidnap/murder were underlined during a May 19 press conference held

by visiting Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.

Downer expressed obvious dissatisfaction that Bith had ignored a summons issued by

the Phnom Penh municipal court in January calling him for questioning, and that authorities

had made no attempt to apprehend him..

"I've obviously been making the point that those who were allegedly involved

in the death of David Wilson and his British and French colleagues should be brought

to justice. And we hope that Sam Bith [will] be charged," Downer said. "I

personally don't know where [Bith] is , but I think I do know where the judicial

consideration of his case is at and I think it's important that charges be laid and

when charges are laid, I would expect the Cambodian authorities to detain him."

Wilson, along with Briton Mark Slater and Frenchman Jean-Michel Bracquet, were kidnapped

on July 26, 1994, from a Sihanoukville-bound train in a Khmer Rouge attack that killed

13 Cambodians. After two months of aborted negotiations and military attempts to

secure their release the three were murdered by their captors.

Prosecution of both Rin and Bith for their involvement in the murders was first proposed

in the aftermath of the trial of Nuon Paet, who was convicted and sentenced to life

imprisonment on June 7 for ordering the killings.

Bith was the commanding officer of both Paet and Rin, who led the initial train attack.

According to diplomatic sources in Phnom Penh, the investigation by Phnom Penh Municipal

Court Judge Mong Mony Chariya into Rin and Bith's roles in the murders was concluded

on May 17 and the case was about to be handed to a court prosecutor.

The source indicated that Chariya had found more than sufficient evidence to support

Bith's involvement in the murders and that Bith and Rin would probably stand trial

together. Rin was arrested on Jan 17 and according to Cambodian law he must go to

trial within six months of that date, by July 17.

Chariya was unavailable for comment.

However, Bith's lawyer, Kar Savuth, told the Post that it was unlikely Bith would

ever go to trial.

"I have told the municipal court not to arrest Bith until they have concrete

evidence that he was involved in the kidnapping and killing," he said. "And

I have evidence that proves he was not involved."

Savuth declined to reveal what exonerating evidence he had uncovered.

Meanwhile the Australian Embassy's First Secretary, Ian McConville, emphasized that

the Australian government would keep the heat on the government to ensure that it

followed through on its own initiatives to prosecute Bith.

"This is both a consular matter as well as one in which the [Wilson] family

remains particularly interested in accountability for what happened," McConville

explained. "We're closely following the outcome of this case."



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