Friends, Relatives Decry Arrest of Former KR

chamkar Bei Village, Phnom Voar, Kampot Province – When fu­­gitive former Khmer Rouge Com­­mander Chhouk Rin met with his nephew Sunday in Phnom Penh, he seemed unaware that he was just two days away from his arrest.

Chhouk Rin—who was seized in Od­dar Meanchey’s province’s An­long Veng on Tuesday—had called Prak Saring to meet him in the capital while he was undergoing medical treatment, Prak Saring said Wednesday.

“He did not ask me anything be­sides asking me to take care of his children and his wife,” the 23-year-old said.

Chhouk Rin had been on the run since February, when the Supreme Court rejected his final appeal against a life sentence issued in 2002 for his role in the 1994 murders of three backpackers from Australia, Britain and France who were taken hostage following a train attack in Kampot province and later executed.

Chhouk Rin had reportedly been away from his family for several months, while he spent time receiving medical treatment in Phnom Penh, and trying to start a new life in Anlong Veng.

But his friends and relatives in Phnom Voar continue to decry what they say is injustice in his case.

Prak Saring said that more than 20 families in the area visited the family’s home on Tuesday to see Chhouk Rin’s wife, Yem Sao, and to express their sympathy.

Yem Sao said she was traveling to Phnom Penh Wednesday to see her husband in Prey Sar prison.

“We don’t want him to be in jail be­­cause we know that he is innocent,” Prak Saring said, adding that he is concerned that his uncle, who has HIV/AIDS, will die in jail.

Chhouk Rin’s children, Cheang Samphea, 15, Cheang Reaksmey, 13 and Cheang Theara, 9, who rode their bicycles from school as usual on Wednesday morning, said they were angry about the arrest.

“I want to see my father but I don’t know when, and there is no mo­ney for the trip,” Cheang Sam­phea said.

Chhouk Rin’s older sister, Ch­houk Ksath, said everyone in the village supports him because he would often help out people in the com­munity, even newcomers who were not former rebels, by giving them land and rice.

While villagers have protested the court decision many times in the past, the government has ig­nored them, Chhouk Ksath said.

Chhouk Rin arrived at Prey Sar prison Wednesday at 12:15 pm, ac­cording to a cousin of Chhouk Rin, who did not want to be named.

A prison guard said Chhouk Rin was transported by car from Siem Reap province.

Chhouk Rin’s lawyer Puth Thea­vy said he will write to King Noro­dom Sihamoni requesting an am­nesty.

British Ambassador David Read­er welcomed the arrest.

“It’s something we’ve been pres­sing the Cambodian government for for some time,” he said.

An Australian embassy spokes­man said the embassy appreciated the cooperation of the Cambodian government in bringing Chhouk Rin to justice.

But Ouch Noun, 51, a close friend of Chhouk Rin, said the government promised that when the Khmer Rouge laid down their weapons, they wouldn’t be punished.

“The government lied to us,” he said, noting that people who were considerably higher than Chhouk Rin in the Khmer Rouge are now in government positions.

Ouch Noun added that the person who really killed the three foreigners is still alive, and that he believes Prime Minister Hun Sen knows that Chhouk Rin is innocent.

“I think what Hun Sen is doing this for [donor] assistance,” he said. “I think they think of Chhouk Rin as a chess piece in a game,” he added.

(Additional reporting by Saing Soenthrith and David McFadden)

 

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