A Bangkok-based US Federal Bureau of Investigation agent spent three hours Friday in Phnom Penh meeting with Ministry of Interior officials to discuss the Cambodian Freedom Fighters.
The agent met with Neth Savoeurn, deputy director general of national police, and told him the FBI would meet directly with US-based leaders of the CFF, which has taken credit for the Nov 24 attack that left as many as eight people dead.
The FBI agent said he would return sometime early this week, but made no specific promises, said Sok Phal, chief of the general information department for the ministry. Prime Minister Hun Sen told an Apsara radio audience Saturday that “a ringleader in the US caused the shooting in Phnom Penh.”
“It happened because we were a little negligent during the Water Festival as there were 3 million people coming to enjoy themselves, and [the CFF] sneaked weapons in Phnom Penh,” Hun Sen said. “Many want peace, but a small group wanted to cause trouble. Now we have solved the issue.
Hun Sen also told human rights workers concerned that “wrong people” may have been arrested not to worry.
“I have appealed to those who got involved to please report themselves to the authorities,” he said. “Their force is in the dozens and not the hundreds or thousands. We will educate them, encourage them and let them go home. They were misled into believing they would be paid $200 and given 2 hectares of land, a house and a pair of buffaloes. If [the CFF] can do that, I will hand over my position and they would not need to fight for power.”
It was reported last week that the CFF had put a $7 million bounty on Hun Sen, compared to $1 million for Funcinpec Party leader Prince Norodom Ranariddh and other top government officials.
“My head is more expensive,” Hun Sen said. “If they make it $7 billion, I will cut my head off and they can use the money to build schools all around the country.”
The prime minister predicted that some CFF leaders would be arrested and tried in the US.
“This is terrorism,” he said. “Such a scheme is like a dreaming strategy. Those who were cheated [by the CFF] should not be misled again. I have pity on the misled.”
One of those arrested, 41-year-old Pailin resident Hem Bun Thoeun, is a Sam Rainsy Party member. His wife says he was targeted by local officials trying to suppress opposition party members in advance of commune elections.
“My husband never told me about CFF. I don’t believe he is a CFF member,” said Ven Ra, who followed her husband to Phnom Penh after his arrest Wednesday, but has been unable to see him.
She said both she and her husband belong to a community group called Ta Prum, but that it has no relationship with CFF.
She claimed Pailin police came back to her house Wednesday after her husband’s arrest and asked for 10,000 baht (about $230) to help reduce his sentence. She said she gave the police 4,000 baht (about $92).
(Additional reporting by Phann Ana)