Group Contests Police Report of Gateway Arrests

Police in Siem Reap City said Thursday that they arrested six people on Wednesday for questioning over an arson attack on a decorative gateway built for the Angkor Sangkranta festival.

The gate, built and decorated by the Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia, a youth group headed by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s son, had drawn the ire of many Cambodian Facebook users, who complained that it had not been built in a sufficiently Khmer style.

Six men who had been drinking near the gate at the time of the fire in the early hours of Tuesday were questioned that morning, but released in the afternoon, according to police.

Thong Sokhun, deputy provincial police chief, said Thursday that another different group of six men were arrested on Wednesday and were being held for questioning.

“We collected another six people to question because we suspect they were part of the burning,” he said. “Our police cooperated with the National Police Commissariat to investigate this case, so I cannot comment in more detail.”

He denied that the six arrestees were the same men who were questioned on Tuesday. However, rights group Licadho claimed Thursday that the six questioned Tuesday were never released and were, in fact, the same men Mr. Sokhun said were arrested on Wednesday.

“We are observing this case,” said Chao Leak Vanna, a monitor for Licadho in Siem Reap province. “There is no proof that the suspects committed the crime. If they committed the crime, they would have run away.”

Mr. Leak Vanna also said that a seventh man, Nhanh Phal, had also been arrested in the case.

Mao Sarin, the 65-year-old mother of Mr. Phal, said Thursday that her son was arrested at their family home on Wednesday. She said her son had been out drinking with the six men questioned on Tuesday.

“My son and those six others did not commit the crime,” she said.

Police could not be reached for comment on Mr. Phal’s arrest.

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