Police on Friday arrested one of the alleged leaders of last week’s high-profile Siem Reap bomb plot and claim he may have ties to the Cambodian Freedom Fighters rebel group, officials said.
Confessions and information from previously arrested suspects led police to arrest Sok Nou Son, who is a military official and Funcinpec member, in Kompong Cham province on Friday, a Ministry of Interior official said.
“[Sok Nou Son’s] group spoke to us, and they told us he is the leader,” the Ministry of Interior official said on Sunday. Sok Nou Son is being held at the detention facility at the Ministry of Interior.
Two military officials said Sok Nou Son is also connected to the brother of Chhun Yasith, the confessed leader of the CFF, which led officials to consider a connection between the suspected bomb plotters and the US-based rebel group.
“He is involved in this [bomb plot], and he might be involved in the CFF because he knew the brother of Chhun Yasith,” said Bun Seng, military commander of Military Region 5, on Sunday.
The CFF came to prominence in November 2000, when armed members of the rebel insurgency led a failed attack in the capital. At least four people died in the attack.
Chhun Yasith, the leader of the CFF who was convicted in absentia and sentenced to life in prison in Cambodia, currently resides in Long Beach, in the US state of California. He could not be reached for comment on Sunday.
Officials were still reluctant on Sunday to say which group is behind the Siem Reap bomb plot, in which authorities had found powerful TNT bombs in Siem Reap town. Authorities so far have charged six people with terrorism, membership in an illegal armed group and illegal weapons possession in connection with the bomb plot.
More arrests are expected to follow, officials said.
Police arrested Sok Nou Son in Chub commune, Tbong Khmum district, when he was allegedly fleeing police, said Kang Sokhorn, police chief of Kompong Cham province, who added that police had been following Sok Nou Son since he fled Siem Reap last week. He said Sok Nou Son was arrested with his brother and both men were wearing their military uniforms.
Sok Nou Son, who did not confess to any involvement in the orchestration of the bomb plot, provided the authorities with intimate knowledge of the plan, said Chem Vichit, a deputy military police official in Kompong Cham province. Sok Nou Son allegedly told police that he would implicate other individuals involved in the plot, Chem Vichit said.
Sok Nou Son, who is also a former member of the Khmer People’s National Liberation Front in the 1980s and 1990s, was stationed in a military headquarters in Phnom Penh before being assigned last year to serve as deputy commander of Military Region 5, which covers the provinces of Battambang and Banteay Meanchey, Bun Seng said.