Siem Reap province
CAMBODIAN officials yesterday denied that Red Shirt protest leader Arisman Pongruengrong was hiding in the Kingdom, following reports that the fugitive Thai had been sighted in Siem Reap.
The Bangkok Post reported on Saturday that Thai tourists had spotted Arisman last Tuesday “singing songs” with a group of around 10 other Thais at the restaurant of the City Angkor Hotel in Siem Reap.
Thailand’s Department of Special Investigations, the report said, was working to capture and repatriate Arisman, who is wanted on terrorism charges after massive protests in Bangkok earlier this year that left at least 90 people dead.
When they say this, it makes it seem like Cambodia and my hotel is hiding terrorists.
Despite last year’s appointment of former Thai prime minister and current Red Shirt icon Thaksin Shinawatra as a Cambodian government adviser, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said Red Shirt leaders had not been given refuge in Cambodia.
“We reiterate that Cambodia has a policy to not support terrorists,” he said. “We’re very conservative and very careful.”
Arisman was cornered in a Bangkok hotel by Thai security forces during protests in April, but he escaped in dramatic fashion by lowering himself by rope out of a third-storey window and fleeing to safety.
Num Le In, operations manager at the City Angkor Hotel, denied Arisman had visited.
“Neither Arisman Pongruengrong nor any other Thai guests have stayed in my hotel,” Num Le In said. “When they say this, it makes it seem like Cambodia and my hotel is hiding terrorists.”
A report last month from Thailand’s The Nation newspaper also placed Arisman in Cambodia, though this was denied by Cambodian officials.
Last month, Cambodia deported two Red Shirt activists – Kobchai Boonplod and Varisareeya Boonsom, both 42 – who had fled to the Kingdom and are now being held on terrorism charges.
The two were arrested in Siem Reap province in connection with a failed bombing attempt in June at the Bangkok headquarters of the Bhumjaithai Party, part of the Thai governing coalition.
The attack apparently failed after a makeshift bomb detonated prematurely.
Siem Reap deputy governor Bun Tharith said he had received no reports of Red Shirts hiding in his province.
“I know there are some Thai people who are working in Siem Reap’s restaurants and hotels, but I don’t know their political views,” he said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JAMES O’TOOLE