Alleged Dissident in Hiding Seeks Passage Abroad

A man who claims to be hiding from authorities in the jungle after being linked to the Khmer National Liberation Front (KNLF), a dissident political group that saw 10 of its members charged with plotting to incite violence on Saturday, said Tuesday he was seeking an NGO’s help to flee to Thailand.

Chan Veasna said he traveled from Preah Vihear province to Phnom Penh on October 19 with Chhim Smak, one of the 10 who are in pretrial detention at Prey Sar prison, and planned to protest outside the Vietnamese Embassy the next day to mark the anniversary of the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements.

But he said he instead fled the city with two friends after being tipped off that police were planning to arrest the group.

“We only planned to hand a petition to the embassy and we had no explosive weapons or plans to topple the government,” said Mr. Veasna, who refuted claims he was a member of the KNLF, which the government has labeled as a terrorist organization.

Mr. Veasna said he had been hiding in the jungle since Saturday but declined to elaborate on his location for fear of being found by authorities. He said he has sought the help of rights group Licadho to flee to Thailand, where many of the KNLF dissidents live.

“It is very hard living in the jungle,” he said. “We are living on vegetables, potatoes and some noodles and there are lots of mosquitoes.”

Am Sam Ath, Licadho’s technical supervisor, confirmed that Mr. Veasna had contacted his organization and said he was “looking into the law to see how much we can help.”

National Police spokesman Kirth Chantharith said there was evidence Mr. Veasna was involved with the KNLF and that police were searching for more suspects.

Self-exiled KNLF president Sam Serey said Mr. Veasna was indeed a member of his group, but added that he was unaware of his current situation.

“He is a member, he came with Chhim Smak,” Mr. Serey said.

“There are a number of members in hiding, but I just told them to keep quiet in order to avoid arrest,” he said.

(Additional reporting by George Wright)

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