Hun Sen Cheers CFF Leader’s Arrest in US

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Fri­day welcomed the arrest of Cam­bodian Freedom Fighters’ leader Chhun Yasith, and rejected speculation that it was a gift from the US to thank Cambodia for agreeing not to hand over US nationals to the International Criminal Court.

US authorities arrested Chhun Ya­sith in California on Wednesday for allegedly planning the CFF at­tack on Phnom Penh in 2000.

He faces several life sentences.

“In the name of the Royal Gov­ern­ment of Cambodia, I would like to thank the US government” for the arrest, Hun Sen said at the Coun­cil of Ministers.

“I think that this arrest is not a gift to Cambodia” for ratifying the ag­reement with the US on the ICC on May 18, Hun Sen added. “This is a joint cooperation taken against ter­ror that both the US and Cam­bo­dia are obligated to.”

The premier appealed to anyone in­volved in the CFF “to come out and present themselves to the com­­petent authorities so they can avoid…arrest.”

Los Angeles Federal Court on Thurs­day refused to grant bail to Chhun Yasith.

“He poses a danger to the community so he should remain in jail,” said Thom Mrozek, a US public affairs official in California.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said by email Thursday that he hoped that in the light of the US re­newing its interest in the CFF at­tack, it might consider taking ac­tion over the 1997 grenade at­tack on a peaceful opposition dem­onstration in Phnom Penh where 13 people were killed.

The opposition has long maintained that after the US investigated the grenade attack, it failed to di­vulge its full findings to protect Cam­bodian authorities who were allegedly involved.

Sam Rainsy also charged that Chhun Yasith may have been a gov­­ernment agent used as a pretext to crackdown on the opposition. “Chhun Yasith is at best a dan­gerous clown, financially greedy and politically unconscious, at worst an agent of Hun Sen’s police who has done a lot of harm to the dem­ocratic and law abiding oppo­si­tion by providing pretexts…to ar­rest dozens of SRP members,” Sam Rainsy wrote.

The US appears to be moving clos­er to the CPP, opposition law­mak­er Son Chhay said Friday.

He said he believed Chhun Ya­sith’s arrest is partly a trade off over the ICC agreement.

The US “is more and more satisfied with the cooperation of the ruling party,” and appears to be more i­nterested in terrorism and human traf­ficking than democracy and hu­man rights in Cambodia, Son Chhay said.

“We are always suspicious of Chhun Yasith’s activities. There’s a lot of rumors that the [Cam­bo­di­an] government is behind him,” Son Chhay added. “We want to see what Chhun Yasith is going to say [in court].”

The US Embassy declined comment on the case Friday and Chhun Yasith could not be contacted. (Additional reporting by Yun Samean in the US)


Related Stories

Latest News

The Weekly DispatchA weekly newsletter from The Cambodia Daily delivering news, analysis and opinion to your inbox. Published every Friday at 11:30am. Sign up today.