Kampot Police Nab ‘Freedom Fighter’ in Drug Raid

Police in Kampot province have arrested Ma Soben, a former police official and member of the Cambodian Freedom Fighters (CFF), alongside two associates suspected of distributing drugs, officials said on Wednesday.

Mr. Soben, 61, was a first deputy provincial police chief in Stung Treng province before being sent to prison for 15 years over his membership of the CFF, which launched an attack on the Defense Ministry in Phnom Penh in 2000, said Duong Sivutha, a current Stung Treng deputy provincial police chief.

Chhun Yasith, alleged leader of the Cambodia Freedom Fighters, in O’Smach after the 1997 fighting. (File photo)
Chhun Yasith, alleged leader of the Cambodia Freedom Fighters, in O’Smach after the 1997 fighting. (File photo)

“I just know that he was released about a year ago,” Mr. Sivutha said.

Mr. Soben was arrested at about midnight on Tuesday during a raid targeting suspected drug dealers at the Visal Guest House in Kompong Trach district, said Kampot deputy provincial police chief In Chiva.

“We arrested the three suspects because our spy told us they were drug distributors,” Mr. Chiva said.

But the officers found only a small amount of powdered methamphetamine in the suspects’ shared room, he said, making it hard for police to establish the scale of their alleged operation.

The drugs, contained in one small plastic bag, “might have been samples for their clients,” Mr. Chiva said.

Under questioning at the provincial police headquarters on Wednesday, all three suspects claimed that they had been framed, he said, adding they would be sent to the provincial court today for further questioning.

District police chief Seng Sokunchath identified Mr. Soben’s two associates as Noun Sreynam, 60, and Kuoy Tith, 29, explaining that the latter was arrested at about 8 a.m. on Tuesday at a local market.

The CFF launched an attack in Phnom Penh on November 24, 2000, that killed eight people and led to 200 arrests. It also carried out four subsequent bombings in the capital and attacks on the Vietnamese Embassy and Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Founded in 1989 by accountant Chhun Yasith, the group had its headquarters in Long Beach, California. In 2010, a U.S. federal judge sentenced Mr. Yasith to life in prison without parole for masterminding the 2000 attack.

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