Yoshimi Tanaka, a former member of the Japanese Red Army terrorist group, spent more than two years in hiding in Cambodia, posing as a businessman, before being arrested in 1996.
Tracked down at a border checkpoint in Svay Rieng province, Tanaka, claiming diplomatic immunity, remained for more than 24 hours inside the North Korean Embassy car that was taking him to Vietnam.
Cambodian authorities eventually seized him and sent him to Thailand. He was later extradited to Japan, where he is now serving a 12-year prison sentence for hijacking a Japan Airlines plane in 1970 and force landing it in North Korea.
Phnom Penh municipal police say they are now looking for some of his accomplices, some 14 former members of the Japanese Red Army and the “Yodo-go” Group, responsible for several attacks in the 1970s.
Phnom Penh Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth said he has received documents from the Interior Ministry with the names of the 14 suspects and their photos.
“The Interior Ministry sent this document to police all over the country to look for the suspects after they got the document from the Japanese Embassy,” Touch Naruth said.
It is, however, not clear what is behind the reinvigorated search. Kazuo Chujo, a counselor at the Japanese Embassy, said Japan occasionally sends information on wanted suspects to foreign governments—not just Cambodia—to keep them updated, but that the latest such update was “more than months ago.”
“We have made no ‘recent’ request to Cambodian government on seven members of the Japanese Red Army and seven members of the ‘Yodo-go’ group. They have been placed on the international wanted list for long years,” Chujo said in an e-mail Monday.
Of the 14 suspects, one is allegedly responsible for the Tel Aviv Lod Airport Massacre of 1972, in which 24 people were killed, Chujo said.
Five were involved in plane hijacking, three in the abduction of Japanese nationals to North Korea and six were released as part of deals the Japanese government struck with the JRA during their attacks, he added.
Asked if the Japanese authorities had reason to believe the suspects could be hiding in Cambodia, Chujo declined to comment.