Chhun Yasith, founder of the Cambodian Freedom Fighters, surrendered documents and other records from his office in the US state of California Monday to investigators from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The Long Beach-based accountant wrote via e-mail that FBI agents Don Shannon and Penney Smith executed a search warrant seeking evidence of “conspiracy to murder, kidnap or maim persons and destroy property” in a foreign country.
“After I spoke with my attorney and he reviewed the documents I had given to the FBI, he told me the CFF has violated no US laws,” Chhun Yasith wrote.
Chhun Yasith has insisted for months that, while he openly advocates the overthrow of the Cambodian government, the CFF is a legal lobbying group and not a terrorist organization.
News of the FBI visit, however, coincides with top Cambodian government officials confirming Monday that the FBI has filed a formal request with Cambodian police for evidence collected after an abortive rebellion in Phnom Penh on Nov 24 in which at least four people died. The evidence includes documents, computer records, ammunition and weapons, police said. Officials are trying to decide how to safely deliver the material to the US.
The FBI could not be reached for comment. As a matter of policy, the agency neither confirms nor denies that a particular suspect is under investigation.
But it is increasingly clear that, in the wake of the Sept 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, the FBI and other US law enforcement officials are reexamining allegations against purported terrorists operating on US soil.
According to a report in the current issue of Time/Asia, the CFF and another US-based rebel group, the Free Vietnam movement, operated virtually without interference for months despite complaints from Vietnam and Cambodia.
Although the US Neutrality Act bars citizens from conspiring to overthrow a friendly government, neither government offered proof that the suspects were engaged in terrorism, the magazine reports.
Then the planes hit the WTC, and the climate changed instantly. Chhun Yasith has confirmed that FBI agents visited his office in Long Beach on Sept 11, removing a number of documents for examination.
Chhun Yasith has said he has visited members of Congress and the Pentagon to “advise” them on the situation in Cambodia, and that the US government knows he is opposed to terrorism.
But the Time/Asia article, by former Phnom Penh reporter Kay Johnson, quotes US Ambassor to Cambodia Kent Wiedemann as calling Chhun Yasith “delusional” and confirming the FBI is actively gathering evidence against the CFF.
Chhun Yasith wrote that he is confident the agents who visited him on Monday will be satisfied with his explanations and he will be cleared of suspicion.
He wrote that he and his lawyer are planning to file a lawsuit against the Cambodian government at the World Court, accusing the top leadership of a variety of misdeeds ranging from drug trafficking to war crimes.