US relatives of a man arrested in the recent government crackdown on an alleged rebel group say he has been framed.
Vutha Math, 43, a longtime resident of the US, flew to Cambodia more than a week ago and was arrested by police in Battambang province shortly after he arrived.
He was charged with membership in the outlawed Cambodian Freedom Fighters, but his family says he never belonged to the group, which has called for an end to the Hun Sen government.
“I wait for somebody to call from Battambang to say for what he has been arrested,” said Ya Math, the older brother of Vutha Math. “We don’t know very much. His mother cries every day. She wants him home.”
The family lives in Long Beach, in the US state of California, where Vutha Math works as a cameraman for a Khmer television station.
His brother Ronnie said Vutha Math was arrested at a karaoke parlor in Battambang.
It was a few days later that the family learned from a sister in Battambang that police had charged Vutha Math with membership in the CFF.
“Someone framed him, that he is part of the CFF, and said he had a lot of documents, but he was just having fun with relatives from Australia,” Ronnie Math said. “I don’t know if he is OK or not.”
Vutha Math is a resident alien, but not a full citizen of the US, and therefore does not receive consular services from the embassy in Phnom Penh.
Ambassador Kent Wiedemann confirmed Monday that Sao Chumgulbert, a naturalized US citizen, is the only US citizen currently being held on charges related to the CFF.
Chhun Yasith, the self-described leader of the US-based rebel movement, again denied involvement in the latest alleged plot against the government when contacted Monday at his home in Long Beach.
He said he knows both Vutha Math and Sao Chumgulbert, but said they both left the CFF in August of last year.
“They are not on a mission at all,” he said. “If they were on a mission, they are not going to go to Cambodia and get arrested like that. They are going to be careful.”
He said his followers still plan to attack the government sometime before the end of the year and will arrest top government officials and former Khmer Rouge leaders, including Ieng Sary.
“My real believers are safe there,” Chhun Yasith said. “They are hiding themselves among the government and no one can find them.”
“I think this [the recent crackdown] is a trick by the government because they cannot find us. It’s a trick to tempt us to come out,” Chhun Yasith said.