Ministry Says Expat Group Behind Attacks

The Ministry of Interior is blaming a US-based group of Cambodian expatriates for seven attempted grenade attacks on the Vietnamese community and attempting to destroy a Sokimex gas tank in northern Phnom Penh, according to a report distributed Wednesday.

The internal Interior Ministry report was given to about 200 officials gathered at the ministry’s two-day annual congress.

“The purpose of the meeting is to examine what has been done in the past and what should be done in the future,” said Khieu Sopheak, ministry spokesman.

Officials also said that although the incidence of crime went down from 1998 to 1999, violent crime has gone up. The report cited US-based Cambodian Free­dom Fighters, the Free Khmer and the Free Vietnam movement as groups that want to cause trouble for the government.

They blamed the Freedom Fighters for attempted grenade attacks on ethnic Vietnamese that have occurred since the group surfaced some two years ago, said Khieu Sopheak, who added that sometimes the grenades did not explode.

“They said that?” one Western human rights worker asked incredulously. “How can they make such general comments like that without any proof?”

Freedom Fighters is a military organization that wants to create instability in Cambodia, the report said. Members of the group are believed to have had links to resistance troops fighting against the Phnom Penh government throughout the 1980s. In December, the group of expatriates living in California pledged to overthrow the government.

The report also said that recently the Free Khmer movement—also known as the Khmer Serey—has been responsible for kidnappings and robberies in Ratanakkiri, Mon­dolkiri, Kratie and Stung Treng provinces. The group was form­ed by a former military general in the 1970-75 Lon Nol regime, the report said.

Free Vietnam, an anti-Hanoi group, continues to operate in Cam­­­bodia despite efforts by both the Cambodian and Viet­namese governments to crack down on it, the report said. Re­cruits are being educated at sites along the Cam­bodian-Thai border, then sent back to other parts of Cam­bodia or Viet­nam to distribute leaf­lets or carry ex­plosives.

“This movement’s purpose is to create trouble,” the report said.

The report also touched upon the crime rate, with the number of cases falling from 7,077 in 1998 to 6,029 in 1999. The 1999 crimes in­clude 896 murders and 1,524 motorbike thefts.

“Although crime is down, offenses of a barbaric character are still occurring,” said Uy Sim, deputy director of the ministry’s cabinet. “The types of offenses caused by social problems are remarkably increasing.”

The breakdown of 1998 crime figures were not contained in the report. Of crimes occurring in 1999, foreigners were the perpetrators in 27 of those cases, the report said. Thirty-seven criminals from foreign countries are also suspected of living in Cam­bodia, but only six of them have been discovered so far.

Other information included in the report was that 221 illegal immigrants from 23 nationalities entered Cambodia in 1999. How­ever, that number appears to be inaccurate considering the more than 600 illegal Chinese immigrants arrested last year in the vicinity of the capital alone.

The meeting continues today, with a scheduled speech by Prime Minister Hun Sen in the afternoon.




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