A suspected member of the US-based rebel group the Cambodian Freedom Fighters is set to be tried today in the Banteay Meanchey provincial court, marking the seventh trial of accused rebels since their failed attack on Phnom Penh in November 2000.
The provincial court will try accused CFF member Chhom Tom, said Banteay Meanchey prosecutor Nhoung Thol Thursday. Chhom Tom’s attorney, Bun Rithy, said Thursday that his client is being charged with terrorism and membership in an armed force.
“When I asked [Chhom Tom] if he knew the meaning of the CFF, he said no—he just wanted the money the CFF members offered him because he is poor,” Bun Rithy said.
Arrested on Oct 9, 2001, and detained in a provincial prison since Oct 12, Chhom Tom met CFF recruiters once in Thailand, Bun Rithy said. He said his client was paid $200 to join the CFF, but was never involved in the planning of the Nov 24 attack or the various bombings at embassies in Phnom Penh of which the CFF is accused.
The government has now convicted at least 95 people for their suspected involvement in the CFF since the botched coup attempt in the capital that left at least four people dead. Critics have said the government is using accusations against alleged CFF members as a tactic to arrest government dissidents.
Although authorities arrested 54 alleged CFF members immediately after the November attack, the government began a new round of arrests in September and October of 2001, detaining upwards of 64 suspects.
Chhom Thom was included in the second batch of arrests. He has been detained past the mandated six-month pretrial detention period.
In early May, National Police Director General Hok Lundy announced after a trip to the US state of California that the government would no longer arrest any CFF members. He did not say the government would stop prosecuting those accused members already in custody.
(Additional reporting by Lor Chandara)