An alleged terrorist testified Monday that he was a government intelligence informant working undercover to gain information on the Cambodian Freedom Fighters. Officials at the Ministry of Defense insisted he was not a government spy.
Tep Simoly, 34, testified that he had been employed as a Ministry of Defense agent to gather information on the CFF since September 2000 and regularly gave reports to military Platoon 33 and Division 5 in Banteay Meanchey province as well as to Hour Sareth, deputy commander of intelligence for the Ministry of Defense.
Tep Simoly was the fourth of seven defendants to testify in the CFF trial that started last Thursday in Phnom Penh Supreme Court. Twenty-eight suspects are being tried for the failed coup last November that left at least four people dead.
He said that while he was working undercover, he gained the confidence of Chhun Yasith, the self-confessed leader of the CFF who resides in Long Beach, in the US state of California. He testified to meeting Chhun Yasith twice in September 2000, in Longkoeu Market in Thailand, near Poipet, and to receiving at least $20 from him. He also obtained information regarding the Nov 24 attack, Tep Simoly said.
After more than two months working undercover, Tep Simoly said he had risen first to the rank of CFF Deputy Division Leader in Banteay Meanchey and later to CFF division head in Battambang. During this time, he was also supplying intelligence to the Ministry of Defense, who he said was aware of the Nov 24 attack.
When Judge Sok Sethamony asked Tep Simoly why he never stated who he was while he was detained the last 11 months in Prey Sar prison, Tep Simoly replied that he had told authorities many times that he was working for the government. However, he said that when he was arrested on Nov 25, the police confiscated all his possessions and his documents proving that he was a government informant.
The judge admonished the police when they could not produce the documents they took from Tep Simoly.
Government officials disputed Tep Simoly’s claims. Hour Sareth, in a letter read by Sok Sethamony, said he did not employ Tep Simoly as an agent, did not recognize him as a Ministry of Defense officer, and thus allowed the court to prosecute him for terrorism and membership in an armed force.
Meanwhile, the court issued an arrest warrant for Sin Kakhapol, the 28th CFF suspect who was expected to be included with the 27 suspects on trial. Sin Kakhapol “escaped from custody and is believed to be in Kompong Speu,” Sok Sethamony said. The judge said the court would try Sin Kakhapol in absentia, charging him with terrorism and membership in an armed force under Article 36 and Article 3 of the Untac law.
Four other suspects testified Monday that they were not CFF members and were offered good jobs by CFF representatives to come to Phnom Penh. Each said he was forced by armed CFF members to carry weapons and attack government buildings.
One suspect, Em Sann, was accused by the court of being the commander-in-chief of the CFF. Em Sann testified that he had known various CFF members for more than a year, but was not himself a member.