A US citizen and the wife of a high-ranking member of the Cambodian Freedom Fighters were charged in Phnom Penh Municipal Court Wednesday with terrorism and membership in an illegal armed force, the latest court appearances in an ongoing government crackdown on suspected members of the US-based rebel group.
Cambodian-American Sao Chumgulbert, 38, and Sok Nhon, 31, were charged Wednesday under Articles 1 and 3 of state law and Article 36 of the Untac law, said Sok Roeun, the deputy prosecutor for the Phnom Penh court.
Sok Nhon is married to An Mao, who was convicted in a Supreme Court trial earlier this year on charges that he took part in the CFF raid on government offices last November.
The pair are now among 14 people arrested since Thursday night in what the government calls a crackdown on members of the rebel group. US Ambassador Kent Wiedemann confirmed on Wednesday that Sao Chumgulbert is the only US citizen in custody on CFF charges.
Despite the government’s charges against the group, officials have not revealed what evidence they have against those arrested. Chhun Yasith, the self-described leader of the CFF, has denied that those arrested are members of his organization.
Sao Chumgulbert was arrested Sunday at Pochentong Airport when he arrived in Phnom Penh from Long Beach, in the US state of California, authorities said. Sok Nhon was arrested in Phnom Penh on Friday night, said Bith Kimhong, deputy municipal police chief.
The government wants to expand its crackdown to include suspected CFF members living in Thailand and the US.
General Sok Phal, director of the Information Bureau at the Ministry of Interior, told Reuters he has requested that Thai and US officials extradite CFF members.
Officials at the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh said Wednesday that they have not received a letter from Cambodian authorities regarding the CFF.
An embassy official said an extradition treaty between Thailand and Cambodia has been in force since it was signed in March. No suspected criminals have been extradited under the treaty, he said.
Asked if suspected members of the CFF could be extradited to Cambodia under the treaty, the embassy official said “this is a technical matter. It depends on the interpretation of the treaty.”
Meanwhile, six more people were arrested in Banteay Meanchey province Saturday on charges of membership in the CFF, police said.
Four weapons were seized, and the suspects are in custody, but officials said they were unsure if the six are members of the CFF, according to Orm Burin, deputy military police chief for Banteay Meanchey province.