kompong speu town – Provincial police in Kompong Speu foiled an alleged attack by at least one suspected member of a rebel group, possibly the Cambodian Freedom Fighters, a day before the election, authorities said Monday.
Officials said the planned attack, which allegedly involved a handful of organizers and at least 70 alleged rebels in Koh Kong province and an unknown number of suspected rebels in Kompong Cham province, was orchestrated to disrupt Sunday’s voting and cause disorder during the counting of ballots.
The authorities arrested Teng Seng Kim, a 52-year-old man who lives in the US and who founded the Khmer Republic Party, in Rokar Chom commune, Chbar Mon district, Kompong Speu province, on Saturday.
On Monday, provincial prosecutor Ven Yoeun said the Kompong Speu provincial court will soon formally charge Teng Seng Kim with terrorism against the government and membership in an armed force for his role in the attack plot.
Ven Yoeun added that the authorities had been investigating the suspect since February and that Teng Seng Kim was connected to the CFF.
“He tried to make a disturbance during the elections,” said Sam Samoun, deputy police commissioner of Kompong Speu province. “He set up a new force and plotted to destroy the election.”
Sam Samoun contradicted accusations that Teng Seng Kim was a member of the CFF or that the CFF had any involvement in this case.
Interviewed inside the Kompong Speu provincial prison on Monday, Teng Seng Kim admitted to plotting the attack but denied that he wanted to hurt anyone.
“I wanted to raise the flag of the Khmer Republic Party and delay the election,” Teng Seng Kim said. “But I did not want anyone hurt.”
Teng Seng Kim, who also goes by the name Teng Seng, denied that he had any connection to the CFF, a rebel group that mounted an abortive attack in Phnom Penh in November 2000, but said he was approached about three months ago by four men who were allegedly from the CFF.
The four men recruited Teng Seng Kim to work with them to cause an election disturbance and offered to grant him the title of “commander” for their group, he said. Teng Seng Kim, who said he did not know the four men were affiliated with the CFF, said he gave them a total of $1,100.
“We wanted to reconcile all political parties in order to develop the country,” Teng Seng Kim said.
He said he severed all ties to the group when he discovered the four men were involved with the CFF rebel group.
General Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, said the suspect “confessed to the authorities that he received orders to make trouble during the election,” but would not comment on who gave him the orders. He said the Ministry of Interior is still investigating the case.
Teng Seng Kim said he left Cambodia in 1975 and entered the US in 1982, where he gained legal immigrant status.
Human rights groups obtained a driver’s license from Teng Seng Kim. The license bore the name Teng Seng and was issued from the US state of California, observers said. The license had a picture of the suspect and the address from Decendo Drive in Los Angeles.
The police said Teng Seng Kim also had a passport from Taiwan.
Teng Seng Kim said he started the Khmer Republic Party in 1995, but that the party was never officially registered with the Ministry of Interior because the ministry ordered him to change the party’s logo, which shows the image of Angkor Wat. He said he refused to change the logo.
Chhun Yasith, the self-confessed leader of the CFF, said on Saturday that the CFF was preparing to overthrow the government if the national elections are not free and fair, but he provided no details of the attack and did not mention Teng Seng Kim or any specific plot in the provinces of Kompong Speu, Koh Kong or Kompong Cham.
(Additional reporting by Nhem Chea Bunly and David Kihara)