A Thai appeals court ruled Friday that jailed Sam Rainsy Party activist Sok Yoeun must be extradited to Cambodia to face charges related to a 1998 rocket-propelled grenade attack on Prime Minister Hun Sen’s convoy, officials said.
Opposition party members branded the Thai court’s decision a political gesture to appease the Hun Sen government, which has actively lobbied for the extradition of the jailed activist since he was apprehend by Thai police in 1999.
The extradition of Sok Yoeun, who is in his late 50s and in weak health after serving four years in a Thai jail, is expected to be carried out within 30 days, The Associated Press reported.
Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Ung Bun-Ang said the timing of the appeals court decision, which is considered to be the end of the judicial process, could not be worse as it came before Friday’s tripartite talks on the formation of a new government between the ruling CPP, Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party.
“The timing was not conducive to the good atmosphere, especially when we are negotiating to set up a new government,” Ung Bun-Ang said.
“This is completely political…. This case will be used to discredit a lot of people,” he added.
Sok Yoeun has been implicated in the 1998 rocket attack on Hun Sen’s motorcade as he was traveling in Siem Reap province. No one in the premier’s entourage was hurt, but a teenage bystander was killed by the blast.
Opposition party members fear that Sok Yoeun’s case will be used to implicate and arrest members of the Sam Rainsy Party.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said earlier this month that police have enough evidence to link Sok Yoeun to the rocket attack. Om Yentieng, an adviser to Hun Sen, said Friday that he was unaware of the court’s ruling, but added that an investigation of the attack was still open.
Amnesty International lists Sok Yoeun as a prisoner of conscience and claims he is a pawn in a bigger political game.