Escaped Terrorist on Interpol’s Wanted List

Convicted terrorist Som Ek, who escaped from prison guards watching over him at a hospital earlier this month, has been added to Interpol’s list of most wanted criminals, officials said on Tuesday, while they plan to add YouTube coup plotter Som Sovannara to the list soon.

“We put [Som Ek] on red notice about two weeks ago, but we have not received any responses” from Interpol’s 194 cooperating countries, said Touch Bora, deputy chief of Cambodia’s office of the international policing body.

Som Ek attends a hearing at the Appeal Court in Phnom Penh in February 2012. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Som Ek attends a hearing at the Appeal Court in Phnom Penh in February 2012. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

The former Royal Cambodian Armed Forces official was sentenced to over 40 years in prison for his alleged involvement in a 2007 bombing at the Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Monument and a thwarted attack in 2009 on the offices of the Defense Ministry and TV3 studio, all in Phnom Penh.

But the 51-year-old Mr. Ek, who claimed he had merely distributed anti-government literature, managed to evade two guards earlier this month at a Phnom Penh hospital while undergoing treatment for a fainting spell and remains at large.

Mr. Ek was not listed on Interpol’s website as of Tuesday evening. Officials from the Interior Ministry and National Police said they were still searching for Mr. Ek and declined to comment on his whereabouts.

The two guards and other patients sharing a room with Mr. Ek at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital said the convict and his visiting family members put fellow occupants to sleep by distributing food and smoking a pipe laced with a chemical that made them drowsy.

However, Nouth Savna, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry’s general department of prisons, said on Tuesday that authorities had tested the food and found no suspicious chemicals.

“The results of our investigation into the meals that prison guard officers ate show that it did not have any poisonous substances,” Mr. Savna said, adding that authorities were still awaiting the results of a blood test on the guards and were looking into other possible explanations for the escape.

“The investigation is not yet 100 percent complete,” he said.

Pech Yon, chief of PJ prison, where Mr. Ek was being held, said that the two guards who let the convict escape had been temporarily suspended and that their fate would be determined after the investigation was finished.

Separately, Mr. Bora of Cambodia’s Interpol office said that authorities were still collecting the necessary documents to add Mr. Sovannara to Interpol’s list. The 35-year-old Canadian resident and former Cambodian soldier made headlines in July after he called on government ministries and the military “to liberate the nation from Hun Sen’s dictatorial regime” in a video posted to YouTube and Facebook.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court took up the case against Mr. Sovannara about a week later. Court officials could not be reached on Tuesday for an update on their investigation.

Mr. Sovannara is a member of the Khmer National Liberation Front (KNLF), branded a terrorist group by the government, which announced a Denmark-based government-in-exile on Sunday, seeking to strip Cambodia’s U.N. seat for human rights violations.

Sam Serey, KNLF president and prime minister of the “Khmer National Government,” wrote in an email on Tuesday that Mr. Sovannara was serving as the group’s minister of security and national defense, but insisted that his so-called government was “working peacefully.”

(Additional reporting by Ben Paviour)

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