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)


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