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Two ‘secessionists’ to face press

Two ‘secessionists’ to face press

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A soldier gestures towards women evicted from Pro Ma village, in Kratie province, earlier this year. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

Bun Chhorn and Sok Tong – fugitives accused of orchestrating a “secessionist plot” in Kratie province – are refusing to admit their guilt, and will hold a press conference Friday in Phnom Penh to say as much, despite Hun Sen’s recent promise to drop their charges if they confess.

Accused secessionist leader Bun Ratha and others have repeatedly denied the existence of the plan, and Chhorn, 55, Ratha’s father, said he and Tong would appear alongside officials from the Association of Democrats to clear their names, even if it meant being arrested in the process.

The Association of Democrats’ president, Mam Sonando, director of an opposition radio station, has also been implicated in the plot.

“I want to show the public that I have no guilt as alleged by Prime Minister Hun Sen,” Chhorn said. “I had only one knife and one hoe to clear plantation. How can I make an autonomous area? Therefore, the prime minister must prove the charges with evidence.”

Sok Tong, 64, also on the run since authorities issued a warrant for his arrest, suggested that any evidence should be brought against him in a court of law, and said that he, too, would try to clear his name.

“If I don’t come to speak, it would be unfair for me, and I would become a guilty person forever,” he said.

Warrants for five alleged secessionists were issued after the forced eviction of roughly 200 families from Pro Ma village by police and military police officers who shot a 14-year-old girl to death in the process.

The government described the eviction as an anti-secessionist operation. Other warrants were issued later for people thought to rank above the five alleged leaders.

The Association of Democrats will host the press conference at Beehive Radio Station, where its deputy president, Chea Bamrong, will appear on behalf of Sonando, who will not be back from a trip abroad in time.

“My president will not attend the press conference, because he will arrive in the country on July 12,” he said. “We will certify that the president is not involved.”

Bamrong maintained that the Association of Democrats had nothing to do with creating an autonomous state, saying it simply advocated the rule of law, compliance with the constitution and educating people about democracy.

To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at [email protected]

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