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KNLF asylum seeker interrogated in court

Khmer National Liberation Front member Hen Chan (second right) is escorted by guards into Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday for questioning
Khmer National Liberation Front member Hen Chan (second right) is escorted by guards into Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday for questioning. Hong Menea

KNLF asylum seeker interrogated in court

Ignoring human rights groups’ call to free the most recently arrested member of Denmark-based dissident group the Khmer National Liberation Front (KNLF), Phnom Penh Municipal Court instead summoned him for questioning yesterday.

Hen Chan, a 33-year-old Kampong Speu native, was charged last Thursday with assisting treason and forging a government document.

Chan’s questioning continued yesterday regarding his affiliation with an organisation the government considers a terrorist network, as well as how he procured an allegedly fake passport, according to investigating judge Im Vannak.

Chan was arrested at a taxi station in the capital’s Russey Keo district last week, said Chhay Sinnarith, chief of internal security police at the Ministry of Interior, “after police found he was carrying many books by the Khmer National Liberation Front hidden in a taxi”.

However, National Police spokesman Kirt Chantharith said that Chan was arrested after immigration police sent out an alert about a border crossing with a fake passport. Chantharith claimed that officials found and confiscated copies of the KNLF treatise only after the arrest.

Chan, who has no defence lawyer, yesterday acknowledged that he was a member of the KNLF, which is registered in Denmark as a humanitarian organisation, according to the Minority Rights Group. Chan admitted to using a fake passport to enter Cambodia via an Oddar Meanchey checkpoint, and to transporting 260 newly printed copies of Mystery of Cambodia, a book banned by Hun Sen’s government.

“I wanted to distribute to Cambodians KNLF’s vision, goal and objectives,” he said.

Human Rights Watch said that Chan was seeking refugee status in Thailand when he was arrested.

“At this point, the Cambodia office of the High Commissioner for Refugees should intervene.… Our view is that Hen Chan should be released immediately because he’s done nothing wrong. Really all he has done is exercise his right to freedom of expression, and joined with a group that the government doesn’t like,” said Phil Robertson, HRW’s Asia deputy director.

Last month, in a trial condemned by rights monitors as lacking in evidence, 13 KNLF members were convicted with plotting to overthrow the government and were sentenced to between five and nine years in jail.

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