Arsonists tried to burn down the Sam Rainsy Party district headquarters and former home of jailed opposition party activist Sok Yoeun in Battambang town at about 1 am Wednesday, opposition officials said.
Sor Chandeth, an assistant to Sam Rainsy Party Secretary-General Eng Chhay Eng, said Wednesday that the stilts of the wooden residence housing the party’s district headquarters had been doused with kerosene and torched.
Serious damage was prevented by three residents of the house, who were alerted by the smell of kerosene and the light from flames radiating up through the floor boards. They quickly extinguished the flames with water, Sor Chandeth said.
Thuch Ra, the Battambang district police chief, said Wednesday that his investigating officers had discovered a bottle containing remnants of kerosene behind the house. He also said they saw a small scorch mark on one of the house’s wooden stilts.
Police interviewed neighbors around the opposition headquarters, but no one claimed to know anything about the fire, he said. He added that police will continue to investigate.
Sor Chandeth said he suspects that someone was attempting to kill Doek Sareoun, Sok Yoeun’s nephew who now resides there.
Sok Yoeun, a former opposition activist, is in prison in Thailand, where he fled to in 1999 after Cambodian authorities held him responsible for a 1998 rocket attack on Prime Minister Hun Sen’s motorcade in Siem Reap town. A bystander was killed.
Human rights groups have decried his detention, saying he deserves refugee status. Sok Yoeun’s family has already been granted asylum in Finland. He was sentenced to six months in jail for illegally entering Thailand, but his detention has continued as the Cambodian government pushes for his extradition. This month marks the beginning of Sok Yoeun’s fifth year in prison.