Soldiers arrested two US citizens and 36 men claiming to be members of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom National Liberation Front in Banteay Meanchey province’s Thma Puok district on Thursday night, police and military officials said on Friday.
A 52-year-old US cameraman and another 50-year-old Vietnamese-American man were among the group, which had set up camp in the jungles of Kok Rameat commune, said Keo Rin, deputy commander of the military’s development unit in the province.
He said they were transferred to provincial police custody on Friday.
Provincial deputy police commissioner Huon Bun Nguon said the men were being detained in Sisophon town, where they are awaiting charges.
“We are waiting orders from higher up as to what action should be taken with them,” Huon Bun Nguon said.
Keo Rin said that during an interrogation after their arrest, members of the group claimed that they had been attempting to set up a training camp to liberate Kampuchea Krom from Vietnam.
The area of southern Vietnam known as Kampuchea Krom was given to Vietnam by the French government in 1949.
He said the camp had been established for two days before the crackdown by the military. He added that it had been located in a heavily land mined area.
All those arrested were unarmed, Keo Rin said. Police said they seized a truck and two motorbikes belonging to the group.
Earlier this month, police dispersed an encampment of 69 Khmer Kampuchea Krom National Liberation Front members in Battambang province’s Phnom Proek district. At the time, no arrests were made. Huon Bun Nguon said 10 of the individuals arrested Thursday had been part of the Battambang group.
US Embassy spokeswoman Heide Bronke said she was not aware of the arrests.
(Additional reporting by Wency Leung)