National Police Director General Hok Lundy has announced an end to the government’s protracted drive against the anti-government Cambodian Freedom Fighters, saying no more suspected members of the US-based group will be arrested beyond those already sought under a warrant.
The announcement, made in the US state of California on a recent trip and repeated Thursday in an interview with The Cambodia Daily, comes nearly one year after the government’s first trial of suspected CFF members.
“I have announced in front of 300 Cambodian-Americans in Long Beach that those who have CFF memberships…both in the states and Cambodia will not be arrested if they do not commit any wrongdoing,” he said in the interview. “Those whose names which the courts have not issued warrants are free.”
He said the reprieve does not extend to the dozens of men and women convicted and jailed by the government during the anti-CFF drive.
“Those who were already apprehended and convicted by the courts, we could not free them because they are under the jurisdiction of the court,” said Hok Lundy, who was in the US for one week in late April as part of an eight-member police delegation.
The announcement marks the end of the largest terrorist investigation ever in Cambodia, a drive that started shortly after the failed November 2000 coup in which at least four people died when CFF soldiers stormed the Ministry of Defense.
The rebels were quickly overwhelmed by government soldiers and a nation-wide search for their supporters and organizers began. Investigators relied heavily on a list taken from the computer of Richard Kiri-Kim, a Cambodian-American from the US state or Oregon who was convicted of being one of the lead organizers of the attack on Phnom Penh. He was captured and sentenced to life in prison.
The list contained 200 names, and police investigators used it to interrogate the listed members and to implicate others. The government never captured the self-proclaimed leader of the CFF, Cambodian-American Chhun Yasith, an accountant who lives in Long Beach.
“I am surprised they are still booting that list around because Hun Sen said [in March] he wasn’t going to take it seriously. He said it had been compromised,” US Embassy spokesman Franklin Huffman said Thursday.
Chhun Yasith said in an e-mail sent Wednesday that he and 300 supporters met Hok Lundy at a restaurant in Long Beach and protested outside while Hok Lundy’s entourage ate inside.
“I hold [sic] a horn warming up my teams and alert [sic] all policemen standing around to secure Hok Lundy’s puppets and us about the freedom of speech in this country then I started my condemning words as following,” he wrote to the Cambodia Daily.
Chhun Yasith said in the e-mail that he then told protesters that Hok Lundy is a murderer, a communist dictator and a “Pol Pot #2.”
Chhun Yasith said he also learned that he will be asked to meet with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation in August. He could be charged with violating the neutrality act, the US federal law that prohibits a US citizen from declaring war on a country.
Defiant still, Chhun Yasith said he will continue his struggle against the Cambodian government.
“I told [Radio Free Asia] that CFF continues its struggle, goal [sic] and plans to remove those dictators from power to the end till victory declared for our innocent Cambodians,” Chhun Yasith wrote.
(Additional reporting by Porter Barron and Matt McKinney)