Amnestied Vannak Begins First Part of Tour

Freed from prison following a royal pardon, Sam Rainsy Party official Srun Vong Vannak left for Bangkok for medical treatment Monday, his first trip abroad since his release last month.

Sam Rainsy’s former chief of security left Cambodia on an early-morning flight from Poch­entong Airport. He was seen off by family members and friends.

Vannak had served 1 1/2 years of a 13-year prison sentence after being convicted of organizing the assassination of Second Prime Minister Hun Sen’s brother-in-law in early 1997. Vannak pleaded not guilty, insisting he was forced to sign a confession.

King Norodom Sihanouk grant­­ed the pardon after receiving Hun Sen’s approval during a summit meeting of the three political parties late last month.

“Vannak’s trip abroad is just for medical treatment because he is not mentally well and has been sick since his release,” said one family member at the airport Monday.

His mother was concerned for his safety and was reluctant to talk about his departure. She heaved a sigh of relief when the plane took off.

A statement from the Sam Rainsy Party on Monday claimed Vannak was leaving for security reasons.

“Knowing that he can still be arrested at any moment, Vannak has now left Cambodia after spending three weeks with his family,” the statement said.

Family members and party officials said Vannak would fly to Australia, the US and probably New Zealand after his stay in Bangkok, at the invitation of the Cambodian community overseas.

But they declined to say how long it would be before the opposition official returned to Cam­bodia.



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