No Orders to Arrest Sam Bith, Officials Say
Former Khmer Rouge guerrillas aren’t expected to react violently to this week’s arrest of Chhouk Rin and the planned arrest of Sam Bith, military officials and experts said this week.
But so far, military officials said Thursday, no orders have been sent to arrest Sam Bith, who is wanted for his role in the 1994 Kampot train ambush that led to the deaths of three Westerners and at least 13 Cambodians.
Bun Seng, RCAF commander of Military Region 5 in Battambang, said former Khmer Rouge areas remained quiet after Monday’s arrest of former guerrilla commander Chhouk Rin in Kampot province. Chhouk Rin allegedly led the train raid.
And Bun Seng said he expected it to remain quiet even if Sam Bith, who he said is staying at his farm in Sdau town, a former Khmer Rouge zone halfway between Battambang and Pailin, is arrested. “They will not react because everything is involved with their leaders and not themselves. They are living in friendship with us,” said Bun Seng.
But Bun Seng said he does not have orders to arrest Sam Bith, now an RCAF two-star general.
Por Vannak, military police commander of Battambang province, also said Thursday no orders have come from Phnom Penh to move against Sam Bith. Sam Bith is the only one of three suspects linked to the Kampot attack who is not in custody.
Kampot Khmer Rouge commander Nuon Paet was sentenced to life in prison last June for ordering the ambush.
Military Police Commander Sao Sokha, who led Chhouk Rin‘s arrest, said Thursday that his forces are still waiting for Sam Bith’s arrest warrant. But he also said resistance to Sam Bith’s capture is not expected even in a former Khmer Rouge zone.
“The situation is still good. Right now the former Khmer Rouge build big houses and their children go to school. They are developing step by step so they cannot keep fighting in the jungle,” said Sao Sokha.
Keo Samuon, commander of Military Region 3, said Thursday the situation is quiet in Kampot as well after Chhouk Rin’s arrest.
“We have experts to explain to them about the law and they understand. [Chhouk Rin] has been accused for a long time by the court as well as by the victims’ families…It is not a political issue, it is a court issue,” said Keo Samuon. But he added that he doesn’t believe Sam Bith will be arrested for the train attack.
Ok Serei Sopheak, co-chairman of the Cambodian Center for Conflict Resolution, also said Wednesday he does not expect a negative reaction from former Khmer Rouge. “As far as I am aware in talking to former Khmer Rouge, the belief is that in the case of Chhouk Rin and Sam Bith, there is clear evidence of criminal activities,” Ok Serei Sopheak said.
(Additional reporting Gina Chon)