Police on Saturday announced that they now have four suspects in custody in relation to the bombs planted outside the Ministry of Defense earlier this month.
Speaking at a news conference Saturday, deputy national police chief Sok Phal said suspect Som Ek, alias Ti To, who was arrested Jan 7, had confessed to plotting to bomb the Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Monument in Phnom Penh in July 2007 and also to planting bombs found outside the Defense Ministry and TV3 studio on Jan 2.
Sok Phal claimed Som Ek is also affiliated with the Cambodian Freedom Fighters, who in November 2000 launched a quickly squashed attack on government buildings in the capital, and the so-called “Tiger Head” movement, a new group the government says is linked to the Jan 2 incident.
“The suspect, Som Ek, was brought to national police headquarters and confessed their main actions,” Sok Phal said at the news conference, held at the Interior Ministry on Saturday. “Som Ek has discussed with the other three people in Thailand in October 2008 to plot the bombing on January 2.”
Sok Phal added that Som Ek, 46, had confessed to ordering the attempted bombing of the Vietnamese monument.
Sok Phal declined to name any of the other three suspects in police custody, nor would he give any details regarding the evidence linking the suspects to the two attempting bombings, citing the ongoing investigation.
But on Thursday, police in Kandal province arrested Phy Saving, 49, after inviting him from his home in Kien Svay district’s Chhoeuteal commune, his wife Prom Thavy said Friday. According to Prom Thavy, police told her that her husband-who she said has worked in the Defense Ministry’s research and intelligence department since 1993-was being detained in connection with at least one of the bomb plots.
She said Phy Saving later called her and said he was being detained at the Interior Ministry’s penal department and told his wife to contact a rights organization, but when she later visited the Interior and Defense ministries she could not locate him.
Kien Svay district police chief Pa Sam Eth confirmed that Phy Saving was in custody Friday, but referred questions to provincial police chief Iev Chamroeun, who said he was unaware of any arrests related to the bomb plots. Mok Chito, director of the Interior Ministry’s penal department, also denied holding any suspects in the bombing plots.
Mol Roeup, the director of the Defense Ministry’s research and intelligence department, said Phy Saving had stopped working for him back in 2000, before declining further comment.
Also on Thursday, police arrested former Mondolkiri provincial deputy police chief Reach Samnang for allegedly being party to the Tiger Head movement, which the police have linked to the bombings, Mondolkiri Provincial Governor Lay Sokha said Sunday. However, Lay Sokha said he did not know whether the former police official had been detained in connection to the Jan 2 bombs.
“Reach Samnang was arrested on Thursday and another three continue to be involved in the Tiger Head movement in Mondolkiri,” he said.
Reach Samnang, who now owns a guesthouse in Mondolkiri, has previously identified himself to a reporter as the brother of Khmer Rouge tribunal spokesman Reach Sambath, but Reach Sambath on Sunday would not confirm that relationship.
“I have a brother in Mondolkiri who owns a guesthouse, but I do not know if he was arrested.” he said by telephone, referring further questions to police.
National police spokesman Kirith Chantharith said by telephone Sunday that all four suspects currently in custody are to appear today in Phnom Penh Municipal Court, where he said they will be formally charged.
(Reporting by Eang Mengleng, Prak Chan Thul and Adam Becker)