KNLF Member Denies Plotting Attack or Forging Passport

Hen Chan, the 33-year-old Khmer National Liberation Front (KNLF) member who was arrested last week and charged with forging a passport and plotting an attack, said from court Monday that he had no violent intentions, and had only planned to disseminate books denouncing the government.

Handcuffed, clad in an orange prison uniform and speaking from a waiting room before questioning at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday, Mr. Chan said he had been asked to transport the books by fellow members of the KNLF, a pro-democracy political advocacy group that has been labeled as a terrorist organization by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“I crossed the border in Choam Sangam checkpoint in [Oddar Meanchey province’s] Anlong Veng district last week, with more then 200 copies of the book of the KNLF,” he said, referring to “The Mystery of Cambodia,” an anti-CPP screed written by the group’s founder.

“I was asked to distribute them in Cambodia.”

KNLF president Sam Serey lives in Denmark, where he says he was granted political asylum. In April, he and 12 other members of the group were found guilty of plotting to overthrow the government and sentenced to between five and nine years in prison—seven are now serving time in Prey Sar prison.

Mr. Chan, speaking publicly for the first time since his arrest, said Monday that he was able to cross the border without incident, but was arrested in Phnom Penh en route to his mother’s house in Kompong Speu province.

“I had 250 copies of the KNLF book in the taxi, and when police checked, I was arrested in Chroy Changva commune,” he said.

“These books were printed in Thailand and organized by the KNLF—they asked me take it to Cambodia, but I know this book about the KNLF is against the CPP and January 7,” he said, in reference to the day the Khmer Rouge fell.

“I did not know the passport was fake; it was organized for me by the KNLF, but all the documents were printed in Thailand,” he said.

But as for the charge of plotting an attack, a crime that carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years, Mr. Chan said he is innocent.

“Now I have been sent to the investigating judge for more questioning without a defense lawyer,” he said. “I am not guilty.”

Investigating Judge Im Vannak could not be reached for comment. Speaking by telephone from Denmark Monday, Mr. Serey said his organization did not prepare a fake passport, nor did it ask Mr. Chan to cross into Cambodia.

“About the fake passport, we don’t know about this…. The KNLF doesn’t have a policy to create fake documents,” he said. “[Mr. Chan] made his own decision to return to Cambodia, and then after he decided, we provided him with some books.”

Mr. Serey said he is working to arrange a lawyer for Mr. Chan.

(Additional reporting by Lauren Crothers)

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