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Credibility of 'ex-KR spies' attacked by King's biographer

Credibility of 'ex-KR spies' attacked by King's biographer

T HE King's official biographer has questioned the credibility of one of the self-confessed

Khmer Rouge underground agents in Phnom Penh who claimed to have links with dissident

politician Sam Rainsy.

Julio Jeldres supported allegations that one of the people - who last month made

allegations against Rainsy and First Prime Minister and Funcinpec leader Prince Norodom

Ranariddh - had stolen and sold equipment donated by an NGO in late 1994.

"Given Mr Sieng Sothearak's reputation as a thief and a liar, I believe people

should be extremely careful in accepting his obviously politically-motivated allegations

against HE Sam Rainsy and HRH Samdech Krom Preah," Jeldres wrote in a Dec 5

statement from Australia.

Sieng Sothearak (also spelt Sophearak) was made a special envoy of Second Prime Minister

Hun Sen, in charge of negotiating the defections of "underground" KR agents,

last month.

At a press conference at Hun Sen's house, Sothearak was presented as one of 10 KR

spies. The group alleged that they had been charged with supporting Rainsy's Khmer

Nation Party (KNP) and that KNP had been given $2 million of KR money.

They also alleged that, once they decided to defect, they were recently approached

by representatives of Ranariddh telling them not to join the government yet. Ranariddh

has publicly accused them of lying.

Jeldres, former director of the Khmer Institute of Democracy (KID), said Sothearak,

then a reporter at the Samleng Youveachon Khmer (Voice of Khmer Youth) had attended

a KID training course for journalists in 1994.

At the end of the training, KID presented new desks, filing cabinets, tape-recorders

and audio cassettes to all the journalits taking part.

Sothearak, accepting the donations for Voice of Khmer Youth, was inadvertently given

two more desks than he should have. When KID went to the newspaper to retrieve the

two, the editor said he knew nothing about the donations.

Inquiries discovered that "most of the brand new furniture and equipment had

been re-sold by Mr Sieng Sothearak to a merchant at Phnom Penh's Central Market,"

Jeldres wrote. The police were able to recover the goods.

While Jeldres said he did not wish to enter "Cambodia's domestic political arena".

He said he felt he should make the information public now, before "political

mileage is made out" of his previous contact with Sothearak.

Meanwhile, further doubt was cast on the reliability of the alleged KR spies by Sam

Rainsy, who accused Hun Sen of encouraging "petty criminals to tell lies".

Rainsy said that on July 20, 1995 - the date when Rainsy received $2 million from

the KR at a meeting in Phnom Penh, according to Sothearak's group - he was not in

Cambodia. Visas on his French passport, Rainsy said, confirmed he was in France at

the time.

Rainsy also focussed on Sothearak's alleged history of theft, producing a 1993 Koh

Santepheap newspaper article which said that Sothearak had been arrested for stealing

a car.

The Post has previously reported that Sothearak was asked to resign from a job with

the ADHOC NGO before the 1993 elections after pocketing money meant to be paid to

other staff.

"How could the KR (the real ones) have trusted such as inexperienced person

and appointed him head of their underground network (if any)," said Rainsy.

"Who would have dared to entrust such a dubious person with the task of keeping

and handling $2 million?"

Hun Sen, meanwhile, was adamant that the threat from underground forces was no political

game.

At a ceremony in Kompong Speu Dec 9, Hun Sen - accompanied by Sothearak - oversaw

the defection of a group of 80 alleged underground agents.

Posing with a cache of weapons reportedly taken from the group, he said the threat

of underground KR operatives should be taken seriously.

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