Six suspects arrested in connection with an alleged plot to detonate high-explosive bombs in Siem Reap town on Sunday night have been charged with terrorism as police expect more arrests, court official said.
The armed group behind the failed attack has not yet been identified, but police have said that one of the suspects is a former royalist soldier with links to the Sam Rainsy Party.
“We have evidence [against the six] and it’s enough for us to hold a trial,” So Vath, Siem Reap Provincial Court prosecutor, said on Thursday.
“We need to continue more investigations. But they are real terrorists,” So Vath said, adding that the six were charged with terrorism, membership in an illegal armed force and weapons possession.
So Vath said his investigation had just begun, “so I do not know who the [suspects] are yet or what group is involved.”
A second Siem Reap court official said on the condition of anonymity Thursday that police have arrested more suspects.
He would not divulge the number of arrests and Interior Ministry officials—who are coordinating the operation in Siem Reap—could not be reached for comment.
One government official said the police are withholding information to the media to prevent jeopardizing a manhunt that has been under way since Sunday.
The men being sought have been branded ‘anti-government’ by police and interior officials.
Interior Ministry Spokesman Khieu Sopheak said on Wednesday the six accused were arrested in Siem Reap and Banteay Meanchey provinces, and some are former soldiers and members of a political party.
“We are investigating, and a few more [suspects] will be arrested,” Khieu Sopheak said. “But we don’t blame any [particular] party.”
Police sources in Banteay Meanchey province identified one of those charged in Siem Reap as Ry Sareth, 42, a former Funcinpec soldier with links to the Sam Rainsy Party.
According to police, the suspect confessed he was paid money to transport the TNT time bombs to Siem Reap town, where the alleged bombers aimed to disrupt an Asean ministers’ meeting.
Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Son Chhay branded the bomb plot a farce, and said it was the start of what are likely to be more security scares that will be engineered as the 2003 general election draws closer.
“This was a set up, not a real attempt at terrorism,” Son Chhay said.
Police arrested the Siem Reap bombing suspects immediately, he said, but the assassination of actress Piseth Pilika, the deadly grenade attack on a Sam Rainsy rally that killed 19 and the slaying of former Funcinpec Interior Minister Secretary of State Ho Sok in 1997, have resulted in nothing, Son Chhay said.
The plot in Siem Reap was a replay of the Sok Yoeun case in 1998, when the government blamed the Sam Rainsy Party activist for firing a rocket at Prime Minister Hun Sen’s cavalcade, he said.
Sok Yoeun is facing extradition from Thailand to stand trial in Cambodia.
Accusing the opposition of terrorism was as credible as “accusing a rabbit of eating sausages,” Son Chhay said.