ARMY chiefs gave conflicting reports about troop movements in the Samrong area
of north-west Cambodia, creating uncertainty over their purpose.
A plainclothes policeman escorts two suspected members of the Cambodian Freedom Fighters Sept 10.
commander of Region 4, General Yiem Sokphanna, originally told the Post that
"more than 100 troops" from Division 2 were sent September 12 to Anlong Veng
north of Siem Reap to protect against any attack by the Cambodian Freedom
However, after the Post contacted his commanding officer
for confirmation, General Sokphanna backtracked and said the movements were
merely to replace border troops.
"I have just come from Anlong Veng
province, but the situation there at the moment is quiet," said General
Sokphanna earlier yesterday. "It is not possible for the CFF to do
The self-styled leader of the CFF, Chhun Yasith, a
Cambodian-American based in the US, this week said that "more than 60" CFF
fighters had assembled in Thailand. Yasith was quoted as saying that the
government should expect an attack "before the end of the year".
initial confirmation by General Sokphanna followed a report from an eyewitness
in Samrong who told the Post that 200 troops armed with AK-47s and small amounts
of heavier weaponry had moved to O'Smach in trucks. Three trucks arrived on Sept
10, and more pick-ups and motorbikes had arrived since. The eyewitness said that
shopowners in Samrong had started removing stocks from their stores in
anticipation of conflict.
In Phnom Penh, the Ministry of the Interior
denied the reports, with co-Minister Sar Kheng unavailable for comment by press
time Thursday. Pol Saroeun, deputy commander in chief of the Royal Cambodian
Armed Forces (RCAF), said he had no knowledge of troop movements. When asked
about the possibility of a CFF attack, he only asked the Post not to show any
interest in the matter.
Meanwhile, US Ambassador Kent Wiedemann spoke to
the Post Sept 13 about ongoing efforts by the Federal Bureau of Investigation
(FBI) to find evidence implicating the CFF in acts to destabilize
Wiedemann and members of the FBI met with Sar Kheng August 27
to discuss the FBI's investigation, which began after the attack last
"If what [the US-based citizens] claimed was true - that he
would use violent means to overthrow a foreign government with which we have
relations - then that would be a violation of US federal law. We have a
responsibility to continue investigating, and that's what we're
However, he said that under no circumstances would the US
extradite Yasith, who is a US citizen, to Cambodia to stand trial.
have made it very clear to the Cambodians that we cannot extradite. They have
requested that, and we have said we are sorry, but it's not going to happen. Our
policy is not to do that," he said. Other than that, though, the government here
was "reasonably satisfied" with US efforts.
"The question is: are [the
CFF] undertaking illegal action, apart from declaring credit for violent events.
That's what we have to determine," he said. "You can't be imprudent or
irresponsible about these things - look what we went through in New York and
Washington a couple of days ago. You can't take those kinds of threats
"If we find that those claims [of responsibility by the CFF for
attacks] are backed with evidence that indicate that it's more than words, and
that there is a link between what those guys have said - Chhun Yasith and the
rest - and the violent events that occurred here on November 24th last, then I
would hope that we would be able to prosecute those people," said
In the past week authorities have arrested 16 alleged members
of the CFF in Phnom Penh and Battambang. Some were later released, but seven
were charged in Phnom Penh.
Although some of the accused admitted to
belonging to the organization, Yasith said the men had nothing to do with him.
Investigating judge Kim Sophoan said that based on the results of his
investigation, more arrests were imminent.
Sok Roeun, the municipal
prosecutor, told the Post September 12 that seven suspected CFF were charged by
the Phnom Penh municipal court with terrorism acts and membership of an illegal
armed group under articles 1 and 3 of the anti-terrorism law and the UNTAC penal
Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng told the Post yesterday that the
CFF had planned to launch an attack in Phnom Penh at midnight on September
"The CFF is still unable to affect Cambodia," he said.
accused told police that he was offered $700 to throw a grenade at Prince
Sirivudh and $500 to bomb the National Assembly.
The police raid
uncovered grenades, CFF flags and disks.