Authorities have transferred to Phnom Penh two US citizens alleged to be involved in forming a Kampuchea Krom National Liberation Front camp in Banteay Meanchey province, while four suspected ringleaders are in custody in Banteay Meanchey, officials said Sunday.
Banteay Meanchey authorities have released 33 Cambodians who claimed to be members of the Kampuchea Krom National Liberation Front, on the grounds that they were “cheated” into forming the alleged rebel camp, officials said Sunday.
The Ministry of Interior transferred US citizens John Bodwell and Hoa Khai Danh from Banteay Meanchey to the Department of Immigration compound across from Phnom Penh International Airport on Saturday, an official with the ministry said.
The Ministry of Interior is questioning the men but has not decided whether they will be accused of any crimes or whether they will be deported, the official said. The Department of Immigration compound is often used to detain foreigners facing deportation.
The two US citizens were arrested in Banteay Meanchey Thursday with 37 men claiming to be from the part of southern Vietnam known as Kampuchea Krom. The 39 people allegedly set up a camp in Thma Puok district to garner support for the Kampuchea Krom movement, which calls for the liberation of the area from Vietnamese rule. Police said the camp was a scam to garner UN recognition and foreign aid.
Both Hoa Khai Danh and Bodwell denied having any links to the Kampuchea Krom National Liberation Front, saying in an interview broadcast Saturday night on Radio Free Asia that they were merely investigating claims from local villagers of the formation of a refugee camp.
“I wanted to take a look at the camp so that when I come back [to the US] I can make a report and ask for aid,” Hoa Khai Danh, a Vietnamese-American, said in the interview.
A US Embassy official said Sunday the embassy will try to interview the two men at “the earliest opportunity” but so far has not heard from the Cambodian government on whether the men will face charges or deportation.
Authorities in Banteay Meanchey on Saturday also released 33 men arrested during the sweep on Thursday because the men were “tricked” into coming to the camp, said Sok Sareth, Banteay Meanchey police chief.
Four suspected ringleaders who allegedly lured the men to Thma Puok remain in jail, Sok Sareth said. He said the 30-plus men were promised money.
(Additional reporting by David Kihara)