The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday heard the case against 13 people accused of involvement in an attempt to topple the government in 2018.
The 13, including a woman, were arrested by the Ministry of Interior police in September 2018, in Phnom Penh, Kampot, Kampong Cham and Pursat provinces. Twenty-five AK-47 rifles were also seized from them apart from other evidence.
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court put them in pre-trial detention on a charge of gathering armed people and keeping weapons illegally under Articles 485, 486 and 488 of the Criminal Code.
The 13 appeared at the hearing with their eight defence lawyers. Hong Kim Eng, 54, one of the accused, said he is a farmer in Pailin province and went to Thailand with another accused, Sam Taing, who introduced him to another man, Aja Ek, in Thailand.
Kim Eng claimed he went to Thailand to borrow money from Ek because Taing told him that Ek is a rich man. When he reached Thailand in 2018, Ek separated him from Taing.
He went to met Ek for the third time and he promised to lend him some money, but later on Ek talked about political matters and told him to gather people to create an armed group to topple the Cambodian government.
However, Kim Eng said he declined to do this as he is just a farmer and a deputy director of an association in Pailin province that is not engaged in politics.
Ek did not lend him any money and he got to know a monk, Vorn Savan, who lent him $5,000 to carry out farming in Pailin. But Kim Eng was arrested by police.
“When Ek told me to secretly gather armed forces, I told him that I came to borrow money from him and I will not do what he had asked of me,” he said.
Savan confirmed in court that Kim Eng borrowed the money from him, but he did not know what he planned to spend the money on. Savan said he went to Thailand thrice to meet Ek, who gave him 2,000 baht each time to cover his expenses for the trip.
“I contacted Kim Eng to carry out a revolution to topple the government, but I did not have any position in the group,” he said.
Another accused Ros Samon said Ek introduced Kim Eng to him in Thailand. Ek told him that Kim Eng had gathered 100 AK-47 rifles and over 1,000 people in Pailin province.
Taing also said at the hearing that he has known Vorn Savan for many years and Taing introduced Kim Eng to Savan in borrowing money. He also met Ek in Thailand.
The trial continues.