Japanophile on Trial for Fiery Emigration Attempt

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday heard the case of a 22-year-old Vietnamese man who cycled to Cambodia and set a fire at the gates of the Japanese Embassy in a bid to be deported to Japan, where he hoped to live.

Daing Phutok left Vietnam sometime in June on bicycle and arrived on July 1 in Phnom Penh, where he set fire to a bundle of clothes soaked in alcohol that he hurled through the gates of the Japanese Embassy on Norodom Boulevard. The flames were quickly extinguished by embassy security guards, who also promptly arrested Mr. Phutok.

Mr. Phutok said in court Wednesday that he had expected the guards to question him about his actions, whereupon he planned to tell them about his dream of living in Japan. Instead, he was remanded to Cambodian authorities and charged with attempting to damage property.

“I heard that the payment to employees in Japan is better than in Vietnam,” he told the court Wednesday. “I burned [clothes at] the Embassy of Japan because I wanted them to arrest me and send me to Japan.”

Mr. Phutok said that he has now come to realize the error of his ways, and he asked to be released and allowed to return to Vietnam.

“I apologize to the Embassy of Japan,” he said.

Mr. Phutok also asked the court to return to him the belongings that were in his possession when he set the fire: a bicycle, his passport, a map, 13,000 riel, about $3.20 and 1,000 Vietnamese dong, about $0.05.

A verdict will be announced on January 15.

If found guilty, Mr. Phutok could face a jail term of up to two years, and a fine of up to 4 million riel (about $1,000).

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