Police in Kompong Thom province’s Baray district arrested an SRP commune chief Tuesday and have warrants to arrest two more opposition party officials for their involvement in the alleged illegal detention of a former SRP commune councilor, officials said.
The arrest comes one day after Prime Minister Hun Sen accused the SRP of intimidation and claimed that SRP officials had forcibly detained a party official from Kompong Thom province in an attempt to prevent her from defecting to the CPP.
The prime minister announced that he had put former SRP lawmaker Sok Pheng, who defected to the CPP last month, in charge of investigating the matter.
Pongro commune chief Thoun Saron was arrested Tuesday morning for allegedly transporting Tim Norn, formerly an SRP commune councilor for Baray commune, against her will to Phnom Penh on Feb 14, said Kompong Thom Provincial Prosecutor Ty Sovannthal.
“Now Thoun Saron is only a suspect,” he said.
Ty Sovannthal said that police are searching for Men Vannak, an SRP councilor for Sralao commune, and Thorn Rithy, deputy chief of the SRP’s Kompong Thom provincial council.
Both men are wanted for allegedly detaining Tim Norn in Phnom Penh and, according to Ty Sovannthal, are on the run.
Thorn Rithy could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but Men Vannak said by telephone that Tim Norn had requested his help and denied that he did anything illegal.
“I am concerned for my security. I am fleeing to Phnom Penh,” he said.
“I am seeking local human rights groups to help me.”
Kompong Thom provincial police chief Chea San said that Ty Sovannthal ordered that the three SRP suspects be arrested for questioning in response to a complaint filed against them by Tim Norn.
Thorn Rithy on Monday denied the allegation against him, saying that Tim Norn had changed her mind about deciding to join the CPP but feared leaving the ruling party; so he offered his assistance, letting her and her family stay one night at his house in Phnom Penh. The following day, he said, SRP lawmaker Tioulong Saumura brought Tim Norn to local rights group Licadho.
SRP Secretary-General Eng Chhay Eang said Tuesday that the issuance of the warrants and the subsequent arrest were politically motivated.
“The court is afraid of Hun Sen. The court has followed Hun Sen without any investigation,” he said, adding that the accused SRP officials are innocent.
“The SRP has no handcuffs or guns. This is a campaign to put pressure on the SRP,” Eng Chhay Eang said.
Sok Pheng, who is now a government adviser and deputy head of the CPP working group for Kompong Thom, denied that the case against the SRP officials was politically motivated and said that Licadho should also be investigated for its involvement.
Licadho Director Naly Pilorge said that her office took in the “woman who filed a complaint against SRP officials,” but denied that she was kept against her will.
“This woman did not complain to Licadho about any detention of her by anyone,” she wrote in a Tuesday fax.
“In this case, we are not aware of any credible evidence to justify the arrest of Mr Thoun Saron.”