Ten members of the blacklisted Khmer National Liberation Front were tried yesterday at Phnom Penh Municipal Court on treason charges brought on by allegations they had distributed anti-Vietnamese propaganda ahead of a demonstration last year.
Chea Sok Heang, presiding judge at the court, said the 10 alleged KNLF members were charged as accomplices to acts of treason under Article 453 of the Criminal Code, adding that after their arrests police recovered hundreds of KNLF statements, leaflets and other related materials from them, which were allegedly handed out before a protest at the Vietnamese Embassy in October 2014.
Lieutenant General Chhay Sinnarith, deputy director of the National Commissariat of the National Police, called the group an “armed terrorist organisation intent on overthrowing the Cambodian and Vietnamese governments”.
“This movement has affected national security, public safety and the stability of the country,” he said.
According to Sinnarith, the government was still cooperating with Danish authorities to extradite the KNLF’s leader, Sam Serey, who resides in the Scandinavian country.
Chhun Nakong, 28, one of the accused, told the court he had joined the KNLF last year whilst in Thailand. However, he professed his innocence.
“The KNLF movement is not an illegal armed movement or a terrorist group,” he said.
“The reason I came to Phnom Penh on October 22 and 23 was to express my opinions about human rights, freedom of expression, real democracy and to demand that the Vietnamese government respects the Paris Peace Accords.
We did not commit any violent acts or violate any laws or act against the royal government. All we did was voice our concerns.”
Chhay Vich, 40, a former teacher who was also in the dock yesterday, said he had never been a member of the KNLF, and had only attended the October 23 protest out of curiosity.
“I was simply a victim of false arrest,” he said. “I did not join the protest.”
Judge Sok Heang postponed the hearing after the morning session, without providing a date for the trial’s resumption.
KNLF founder Serey could not be reached yesterday, but in a statement released on July 1 said “the arrest of KNLF’s members to unfair imprisonment and long-time unlawful custody is [a] violation of international law and [the] Cambodian constitution so they should be released without condition”.