Cambodia May Seek Thach Sang’s Extradition

Cambodia may ask the US to ex­tradite royalist parliamentarian Thach Sang, self-confessed lead­er of an ethnic Khmer movement sworn to end Han­oi’s control of the Mekong Delta region, Co-Interior Minister Sar Kheng said Wednesday.

Sar Kheng would not comment on the evidence compiled ag­ainst Thach Sang and the newly formed Kampuchea Krom National Liberation Front.

But, seeking Thach Sang’s extradition would likely follow the work of a high-level police and military investigation in Cam­bodia, Sar Kheng said.

“This would be the next step,” Sar Kheng said by telephone.

“Now we are not yet thinking about that. We are collecting the evidence,” he said.

Protected by parliamentary immunity, Thach Sang—who is currently living in the US—has not yet been charged with any crime.

Last week police sent a report to National Assembly and royalist Fun­cinpec President Prince No­ro­dom Ranariddh outlining the case against Thach Sang.

A Funcinpec member said Wed­nesday the feeling inside the party was Thach Sang will be expelled, leaving the way open for his criminal prosecution.

“It is not good,” the Funcinpec member said on condition of an­on­ymity.

Kampuchea Krom, a territory engulfing most of the Mekong Del­ta in southern Vietnam, is home to a large population of ethnic Khmers and has long been claimed as Cambodian territory.

The loss of Kampuchea Krom to Vietnam has been an emotional, but largely background, issue until 2,000 people protested in Phnom Penh in June demanding that Han­oi end alleged human rights abuses against the ethnic Khmer population.

Thach Sang said by telephone from the US state of Mass­achusetts on Monday the group he leads is not an armed movement but would become one if Hanoi does not relinquish claims to Kampuchea Krom.

The Vietnamese Embassy in Phnom Penh has reacted angrily to the KKNLF threat and denies all charges of ethnic discrimination.

Cambodia’s recognition of the legal status of ethnic Khmers from Vietnam has also become a contested issue in recent weeks.

Ethnic Khmer advocacy groups attacked Sar Kheng on Wed­­nesday for his recently stated policy of granting Cambodian residency only to ethnic Khmers from Vietnam who hold official documentation of their claims to Cambodian blood.

The Khmer Kampuchea Krom Coordination Committee—an umbrella group of seven organizations—said Wednesday ethnic Khmers from Vietnam, with or with­out documents, were still Khmer.

Many don’t have documents because they fled Vietnam and are now living in Cambodia.

“The word “illegal immigrant” cannot be used for Khmer Kam­puchea Krom people,” the committee said in a statement, which also requested a meeting with Sar Kheng to discuss the issue further.


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