A senior police official said Monday that the leader of the Khmer National Liberation Front (KNLF), 10 members of which were charged Sunday with plotting to incite violence, was once part of the Tiger Head movement, another supposed terrorist organization.
Both groups have now been accused of being behind the same 2009 bomb plot in Phnom Penh, in which explosives that never went off were found in front of the Council of Ministers building and TV3 station on Russian Boulevard.
Chhay Sinarith, director of the Interior Ministry’s internal security department, said police have evidence that Sam Serey, president of the KNLF—a dissident group convinced that Vietnam continues to secretly control Cambodia through the ruling CPP—was previously a member of the Tiger Head movement and used false identities to mask his political activities over the years.
“Sam Serey was a member of the Tiger Head movement…. We know this because of documents we seized when we arrested their members for the 2009 bomb plot,” Lieutenant General Sinarith said, adding that Mr. Serey has also gone by the names Yeam Yeath and Sok Suy.
“Thai authorities sent [the documents] to us…to show that he was involved in the illegal group that intended to create a bomb,” he said.
“The two groups are one.”
Authorities did not publicly draw a link between the KNLF—formed in 2012 and comprised mostly of ethnic Khmer Krom dissidents—and the Tiger Head movement until Thursday, when a statement released by the National Police accused Mr. Serey of being behind the failed 2009 bomb plot.
Four Tiger Head members were sentenced to between 20 and 28 years for the crime.
In a separate case, thirteen KNLF members were found guilty in April of plotting to overthrow the government and sentenced to between five and nine years behind bars in what was widely seen as a politically motivated verdict based on scant evidence.
Contacted Monday in Thailand, Mr. Serey, who was among six members of the KNLF tried in absentia, denied ever being a member of the Tiger Head movement, but said he had been close with its leader, Som Ek.
“This movement is different from the KNLF but I do know Mr. Som Ek, the leader of the Tiger Movement,” he said.
“He also fought on the Thai border against the Vietnamese invasion and was always opposed to the CPP,” he said.
“That is why the Hun Sen regime and Vietnam were not happy with him, so they had to find a way to break [the movement].”
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