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Questioning for general in weapons case

Samith Virak following his arrest on Monday.

A BRIGADIER general arrested this week for allegedly possessing illegal weapons has been sent to military court for questioning, officials said yesterday, as an associate of the officer was arrested in Siem Reap province.

Samith Virak, deputy director of the materials and technology department at the defence ministry, was arrested at his home on Monday and brought to military court yesterday for interrogation by prosecutors, said Ney Thol, head of the military court.

“I did not get a report about the suspect’s answers. Now this case is in the hands of the prosecutor and I am waiting on a report from him,” Ney Thol said.

Sao Sokha, the national military police commander, said on Monday that Samith Virak was arrested in September 2001 on suspicion of involvement with a group called the Cambodian Freedom Fighters, which staged an armed terrorist attack in 2000 on the Ministry of Defence and the Council of Ministers. He was released on bail in 2002, however, and his case was never brought to trial.

“We are investigating to find out who allowed this man to get a position at the Ministry of Defence,” Sao Sokha said on Monday, adding that police were also investigating “whether this man trafficked weapons or created any illegal movements or insecurity in the country”.

Sao Sokha said police had confiscated 12 illegal firearms from the general’s office and five from his house on Monday, adding that “Samith Virak” was an alias, and that the suspect’s real name was Pich Thoeun.
Prum Sornthon, chief prosecutor of the military court, said yesterday that he could not remember why Samith Virak’s case had never been brought to trial in 2002.

“I cannot say anything about that because there are too many cases,” Prum Sornthon said.

Peuy Pel, a lieutenant colonel in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, was also arrested yesterday in Siem Reap province’s Banteay Srei district for allegedly possessing illegal weapons including a rifle and a pistol.

The arrest and confiscation were done on land owned by Samith Virak, according to Ngem Sila, deputy military police chief for Siem Reap.

“We sent the suspect and the evidence including an AK-47 rifle and a K-54 handgun to Phnom Penh for the military court to take action through legal procedures,” he said.

A military officer who declined to be named said Peuy Pel’s arrest was linked to Samith Virak’s case. Police at the scene of Samith Virak’s arrest on Monday said the general was also under investigation for “other issues” aside from weapons, but declined to elaborate.



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