The Defense Ministry has launched an investigation into RCAF General Sam Bith’s role in the 1994 Khmer Rouge train attack that led to the deaths of 16 people, including three Western backpackers, said co-Defense Minister Prince Sisowath Sirirath.
After a request from the municipal court, Sam Bith has been suspended from his army position to allow authorities to conduct more easily their own inquiry.
“The military has to get involved in this investigation to find justice for General Sam Bith because he is a high-ranking RCAF member and he only faces an accusation by the municipal court,” Prince Sirirath said.
“We agreed with the municipal court’s proposal asking to suspend [General Sam Bith] to let them do an investigation, but we will also take our inspection department officers to do this case. They are working on it now,” he said.
A former Khmer Rouge commander, Sam Bith is one of three men suspected of ordering the 1994 train attack that led to the kidnapping and eventual execution of the three backpackers, from France, Britain and Australia.
Sam Bith is the only one of the three suspects who has never been in custody. He failed to appear for a Municipal Court summons in January 2000.
Nuon Paet, meanwhile, was tried in 1999 and sentenced to life in prison. Chhouk Rin was found not guilty last year because of a law that granted Khmer Rouge defectors immunity if they joined the government within six months of passage of the law.
Military prosecutors said they would begin the Sam Bith investigation as soon as they receive orders from Prince Sirirath, but so far they have not heard anything.
“I did not learn about it until today. I did not yet receive orders from high official,” Khin Lom Hong, deputy director of the Defense Inspection Department, said Sunday.
Military prosecutor Sao Sok also said he did not learn of the military investigation until he was contacted by a reporter.
“I did not yet get orders from defense co-ministers to do this investigation on Sam Bith’s case, but usually all the violation acts on military should be sent to my place and I have to do investigation,” Sao Sok said.