Sixteen people whose names appeared on a membership list for the so-called “Khmer Empire Movement” in Pursat province are no longer being considered suspects in the case, officials said Wednesday.
Pursat Provincial Court Investigating Judge Kong Sokhom said that he had finished questioning the 16 suspects, whose names were on a list that police had confiscated from the homes of five Cham Muslim men arrested in May for allegedly forming the movement.
Kong Sokhom said that he released the 16 men, all from Kamdieng district’s Kanhchor commune, as they knew nothing about the so-called movement, which police claim was formed to attack Vietnam and Thailand in an attempt to reclaim ancient Khmer lands.
Thousands of other names on the alleged membership list were also likely fabricated, said Kong Sokhom, though he added that others were linked to the alleged plot.
“Many more people are involved with the movement. I have asked the police to investigate,” he said.
He also said that he had already questioned Chan Veasna, Tol Veasna, Tol Mann, Ny Kosal, and Thab The, the five alleged leaders of the Khmer Empire Movement who are currently in Pursat provincial prison.
Nhoung Samoeun, an investigator with local rights group Licadho, said that the wife of one of the alleged ringleaders, Ny Kosal, is being intimidated by other villagers because of the trouble her husband had caused.
“People are cursing her…claiming that Ly Heang’s husband, Ny Kosal, caused them trouble,” he said, adding that the woman needs protection.
“Ly Heang is just a victim,” he added.
Pursat Provincial Deputy Police Chief Sarun Chanthy said that he had not received reports of intimidation against Ny Kosal. He added that the villagers should not fear arrest, even if their names appeared on the list.
“We have educated them already,” he added.