The government will deport two US citizens for allegedly creating a militia at a fake refugee camp in Banteay Meanchey province, officials said Monday.
The Banteay Meanchey court charged four other men with membership in an armed force for their alleged role in establishing the camp, a court official said.
“They were using the Cambodian territory to start a group which would oppose another country,” Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, said Monday. “We don’t want anyone to use Cambodia as a steppingstone to fight another country.”
The US citizens, John Bodwell and Hoa Khai Dinh, are being held at the Ministry of Interior’s Department of Immigration compound in Phnom Penh and will be deported “very soon,” Khieu Sopheak said.
Police arrested Bodwell and Dinh along with 37 Cambodians on Thursday at the Thma Puok district camp, which members claimed was a refuge for Kampuchea Krom National Liberation Front members.
Authorities said previously that the founders of the camps wanted to garner support and aid for the Front, a militant group whose members want to liberate part of the Mekong Delta from Vietnamese rule. The so-called refugees at the camp had been tricked into going there with promises of international support, officials said. The 33 duped Cambodians were released. No officials reported finding any weapons at the camp.
A US Embassy official said on Monday that the embassy was “giving the appropriate consular services” to the two men and “monitoring their welfare and well-being.” Dinh is a naturalized US citizen born in Vietnam, the official said. The official declined to comment on whether the US would intervene in the deportation proceedings.
Banteay Meanchey authorities charged four Cambodians on Sunday with membership in an armed force after they concluded the accused were “ringleaders” responsible for establishing the camp, Khoung Thol, a provincial court prosecutor, said Monday.
The four men, whose identities have not been released, were also involved in a previous attempt in Battambang province to form a similar camp, Khoung Thol said.
On Sept 2, police in Battambang province arrested the same four men and dispersed 65 others at an alleged Kampuchea Krom National Liberation Front camp in Phnom Proek district. After “educating” the four men, the authorities released them.