Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Diplomats told a month ago 'you'll have Nuon Paet'



Diplomats told a month ago 'you'll have Nuon Paet'

Diplomats told a month ago 'you'll have Nuon Paet'

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BUSTED

A triple murderer, former KR general Nuon Paet, becomes the star attraction at T3 prison.

PREMIER Hun Sen told France, Australia and Britain a month ago that he would arrest

alleged triple murderer Nuon Paet - but only after the election, diplomatic sources

confirm.

The message was given to ambassadors Gildas Le Lidec of France, Malcolm Leader of

Australia and George Edgar of Britain when they met Hun Sen in June.

The three country representatives have consistently requested Paet's arrest for the

1994 kidnapping and murder of Briton Mark Slater, Frenchman Jean-Michel Braquet and

Australian David Wilson.

Twice in the past year the Post has carried confirmed stories of Paet's whereabouts:

once in Samlot and again, more recently, in KR defector Ieng Sary's semi-autonomous

stronghold of Pailin.

One diplomatic source told the Post that Hun Sen informed the three ambassadors that

it could cause chaos if Paet was seized before the July 26 polls.

The timing of the arrest so soon after the election was endorsed by the international

community raised the question of a connection between the two events.

An Australian source has vigorously denied that the arrest was part of a "trade-off"

- a conviction in an embarrassing murder case in return for endorsing the often-criticized

elections - saying the timing was coincidental and the arrest resulted from concerted

pressure by the three countries involved.

The source also pointed out that Australia and Britain had been two of the strongest

advocates for a hard-line statement on the election.

Likewise, the French ambassador has reportedly dismissed any connection as "nonsense",

although unlike the Australians the French have long pushed for a positive report

of the elections before counting was even finished.

Nuon Paet, 52, a former KR general, was arrested by police in Phnom Penh Aug 1 after

his car was stopped at a weapons check-point on the road from Pochentong airport.

It was a ruse set up by police to detain Paet.

His arrest was based on a warrant from the Kampot court issued on April 26, 1995,

which accuses him of planning the abduction and then subsequently killing three Western

tourists. It also accused him of their illegal detention at both Noneas village,

Phnom Leav I commune in Kampong Trach district and at Knach Prey village in Phnom

Vour (Vine Mountain) in July, 1994.

Hok Lundy, Chief of the National Police, said Hun Sen warned him that if the case

was not successfully prosecuted then it was likely to adversely affect relations

with the French, English and Australian governments.

Lundy said that the arrest came from persistence and subterfuge. He said it involved

both secret police and criminal police to follow Paet in the border areas.

He said one of the problems was that few police officers knew what he looked like,

but they got a description through business and family contacts.

Meanwhile, the police who actually made the arrest were surprised to find that they

had captured such a notorious figure.

One of the arresting officers said that when the helicopter Paet was travelling in

arrived, a van went out on to the tarmac and picked him up. The van then drove off

and was stopped at a checkpoint.

Police then climbed into the van and handcuffed Paet who they had been told was a

criminal wanted for various charges.

The officer said it was not until later that they realized who they had arrested.

"I didn't know he was Nuon Paet. They told me to arrest a kidnapper, murderer

and weapons smuggler but when we arrived at the police station someone told me that

this was Paet."

Khoun Sophon, Chief of Criminal Police, said they had forwarded the arrest documents

to the court for processing but the documents relating to the charges had not yet

been transferred to Phnom Penh.

Meanwhile, Hun Sen has trumpeted the arrest as a victory for the police. "This

is a success for our national police that they carried out the arrest warrant of

the court," he said at his residence after briefing the three countries' ambassadors

about the capture.

He added that it had been a difficult task, because Paet had moved hiding places

and had changed his name.

However, the extent of Paet's efforts to remain incognito is somewhat debatable,

given his whereabouts and a photograph of him had been published in the Post.

According to Heng Sam An, one of Pailin governor Ee Chhean's staff, Paet has been

living in Pailin at Stung Kach village.

Hun Sen said that he had heard Paet was passing himself off in neighboring countries

as an RCAF soldier. That seemed to particularly irk the premier. "Nuon Paet

is not involved with RCAF. The last we knew he was smuggling cars from Thailand to

Cambodia. He is not in the RCAF as a general, a colonel or even a private."

He said Paet spent time going backwards and forwards between the two countries so

he had been hard to catch. Hun Sen turned to a Khmer proverb to explain how he was

finally detained: "The crane can forget the bird trap but the bird trap never

forgets the crane."

Staying with the folklore motif, the premier compared Paet to a tiger in its lair,

saying if they had tried to attack Paet at home where he was strong, he could defend

himself.

But instead, they waited until he left his lair and they set a trap for him.

Hun Sen said he now wanted the victims' countries to each send a lawyer to assist

with the prosecution and so that the victims can be represented during the trial.

Paet's arrest may be a cause for celebration for Hun Sen and the countries that have

been pushing for it for so long, but it may also have implications for other former

KR fighters who had assumed their crimes had been quietly forgotten.

Senior resistance leader Khan Savoeun said Paet's arrest was likely to spread panic

among some of the defectors who may now consider returning to the jungle rather than

wait to see if a similar fate awaits them.

He said that it was possible that Paet's court testimony would implicate KR defectors

who had been welcomed by Hun Sen.

Paet was a relatively minor figure in the Khmer Rouge, and would probably argue that

he was just acting under orders, Savoeun said.

However, the unique aspect of Paet's case is that it involved foreigners.

There is no doubt that there are other more brutal and culpable murderers at large

and within reach but there is no direct international pressure for them to be captured

and tried, just because they killed Khmers.

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