Sam Rainsy Party activist Sok Yoeun claimed in a Thai court Monday that Cambodian authorities misidentified him in a 1998 arrest warrant, and that he was not involved in an alleged assassination attempt that same year against Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Bangkok Post reported Tuesday.
Testifying in court for the first time since his arrest in 1999 for illegally entering Thailand, Sok Yoeun denied any part in the Siem Reap rocket attack that Hun Sen’s supporters claim was an attempt on the premier’s life, the Bangkok Post reported.
Sok Yoeun’s lawyer, Chairat Sangaroon, told the Thai court that the warrant for the 54-year-old’s trial in Cambodian military court was issued Sept 6, 1998—more than two weeks before the rocket attack actually took place, the Bangkok Post reported.
“How was a person accused of a crime that had yet to occur?” the newspaper reported the lawyer as asking. The warrant also lists the wrong age and name, the lawyer said.
One bystander was killed by a rocket that had been fired at a procession of newly elected parliamentarians. Two opposition activists were arrested in connection with the attack, but later released.
As government authorities swept through the Battambang area in late 1999, Sok Yoeun fled to Thailand, but was jailed on immigration charges after a tip-off from a Thai politician.
He has since become the focus of an extradition effort by the Cambodian government.
Sam Rainsy Party officials here maintain the government’s case against Sok Yoeun has more to do with intimidating the political opposition rather than finding those who carried out the attack.
They also claim Sok Yoeun’s life would be endangered if he were handed over to Cambodian authorities, but opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said Tuesday he has met Sok Yoeun in jail and felt that the Thais are only waiting for a diplomatically appropriate time to free him.
“On one hand they want to serve their diplomatic interests with the Cambodian government and try to behave in a way that supports [Cambodia’s extradition request].” Son Chhay said. “On the other hand this is against their principles in terms of allowing the abuse of this innocent man.”
Another court hearing is scheduled for June 13.