US sanctions on Tamil charity prompts local investigation
This picture, released by Sri Lanka's Ministry of Defence last week, is said to be of Sri Lankan troops looking at the bodies of Tiger rebels.
NATIONAL police said Monday they have opened and investigation into whether a US-based charity with ties to Sri Lanka's separatist Tamil Tigers had ever operated in Cambodia, following sanctions against the group by the US Treasury Department.
Prompted by a US embassy notice that the Tamil Foundation had been identified as a terrorist group, the Foreign Affairs Ministry at the end of last month asked the Interior Ministry to monitor the presence of nongovernmental organisations in Cambodia. police spokesman Keat Chantarith said
"We are looking into the case" of the Tamil Foundation," he told the Post.
"But we don't have any information yet," he said, adding that it was not known whether the group was ever active in Cambodia.
In a news release posted last month on its website, the US Treasury Department designated the Tamil Foundation as a terrorist group and announced it had frozen the charity's assets.
Treasury official Adam Szubin said the Tigers have "relied on so-called charities to raise funds and advance its violent aims".
The statement said the Tamil Foundation has "mingled" funds with the Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation, which the US government says acts as a front to facilitate fund raising and procurement for the Tigers' resistance.
Foundation owner Nagaratnam A Ranjithan, a Sri Lankan immigrant to the US who has worked as a doctor for 32 years, denied the allegations.
"The Tamil Foundation has nothing to do with the Tigers," he told the Associated Press last month.
He described the foundation as a private charity dedicated to improving the lives of the Tamils, the mainly Hindu minority group of about three million in the nation of 19 million off India's southern tip.
US embassy officials in Phnom Penh could not be reached Monday.
History of ties to Cambodia
In 1996, the Bangkok-based Sri Lankan ambassador, Sarala Fernando, conveyed Colombo's alarm to the Cambodian government about the Tigers running armaments, munitions and explosives out of Phnom Penh, where weapons were so plentiful at that time that AK-47 assault rifles could be purchased at local markets.
In particular, reports surfaced from diplomats and journalists in Colombo that the Tamil Tigers were planning to buy anti-aircraft missiles from Cambodian arms dealers for their war effort against Sri Lanka's government.
There were also concerns that the Tigers had established a front in Phnom Penh. Sri Lankan expatriates living in Phnom Penh said at the time they believed Tiger operatives had set up a safe house in the capital, from where they bought arms with money raised from passport and visa forging, as well as heroin trading, according to news reports at the time.
In 2005, the Cambodian government admitted for the first time that arms had been smuggled out of the country to Tamil Tigers, as well as to guerrillas in the Philippines and Myanmar.
Prime Minister Hun Sen in 2006 vowed to the visiting Sri Lankan prime minister to end a long-running flow of weapons from Cambodia to the Tigers, and pledged to exchange intelligence to ensure that this was achieved.
For decades, the Tamil Tigers have waged a guerrilla war for an independent state in northern and eastern Sri Lanka that has been marked by bombings, assassinations and failed peace talks. But the group has now been cornered in a small patch of jungle following an aggressive military campaign.