A kidnapping ring made up of former RCAF officials was allegedly behind the four-day abduction of a Cambodian-American businesswoman from California, the chief of the Ministry of Interior’s penal police department said at a news conference Wednesday.
Four members of the ring have been arrested and five other former RCAF officials are still at large for holding 39-year-old Klout Sothy captive in a farmhouse outside the city while demanding a ransom of more than $5 million for her safe return, penal police chief Muong Khim said.
He identified the ringleader of the gang of former soldiers as ex- RCAF commander Kim Vanthai, who has not been apprehended.
Muong Khim said a man identified as Thach Khum and three other former soldiers were also being sought by police for kidnapping the US national, who was released unharmed Monday night.
Two of the arrested former RCAF officials, who identified themselves as Men Chandara, 48, a lieutenant colonel, and Touch Sophan, 40, were presented to journalists at the Ministry of Interior.
They were not handcuffed, and both said they were RCAF officials rather than former RCAF officials.
They were arrested Monday while driving in a Toyota Camry on Russian Boulevard, penal police said.
Two other men, identified as Ros Sothea and Keo Savann, were arrested by penal police Tuesday night, Muong Khim said.
No other information was provided about the men, but Muong Khim said at least four kidnappers will be sent to the court.
Mystery still shrouds the kidnapping. Klout Sothy’s relatives said Kim Vanthai was an acquaintance of the family for years and that while Klout Sothy was missing, Kim Vanthai urged her husband to come up with the kidnappers’ ransom demand.
Muong Khim said that the plan to kidnap Klout Sothy, who relatives said owns a small computer parts shop in the California city of San Jose, was devised four days before she arrived in Cambodia.
The kidnapping occurred just hours after she arrived here on Friday.
Muong Khim told reporters Wednesday that the victim had been staying in a hotel near her unfinished new house in Phnom Penh’s Chamkar Mon district when she was abducted by two armed men driving a Toyota.
Sann Sang, the kidnapped woman’s brother, said that Klout Sothy, who police said traveled back to the US shortly after her release, constantly felt her life was under threat during the grueling four-day ordeal and tried to keep her eyes shut the entire time.
She was released shaken-up but unharmed Monday night by two of her kidnappers who left her on a stretch of National Route 4 outside of Phnom Penh and gave her $5 for taxi fare back to the city, according to Sann Sang.
(Additional reporting by David McFadden)