Municipal authorities plan to print and distribute thousands of photographs of two men suspected of participating in the kidnapping of an opposition party parliamentarian, a police official said Tuesday.
Bith Kim Hong, deputy municipal police chief, revealed the new plan when asked if police have made any progress in their investigation into the Oct 6 kidnapping of Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Lon Phon.
The lawmaker was released unharmed three days later in exchange for a reported ransom of $140,000, paid in part by government officials.
“So far we do not know the exact place of where [the suspects] are,” Bith Kim Hong said of the search for two men police say masterminded the kidnapping. “We suspect they are in the rural area or have gone into hiding in a neighboring country.”
Bith Kim Hong said the photographs will be distributed to provincial authorities across the country “in the future” to facilitate the search.
Lon Phon was abducted by four armed men from his home.
Last month, police identified the man they believe masterminded the kidnapping as Huoth Ravouth, 32, a medical student who remains at large. They arrested three suspects — including Houth Ravouth’s brother, his mother and another associate.
At the time, human rights workers expressed skepticism that police had arrested the right people, pointing to apparent inconsistencies in the police version of the kidnapping. All three suspects remain in a municipal prison, police say.
Opposition party members have repeatedly accused the government of orchestrating the kidnapping as part of a campaign to intimidate them. Sam Rainsy said Tuesday he remains skeptical of police efforts to catch the real kidnappers.
“I don’t know what they are doing,” he said. “But I remain very skeptical. I think this is a play to make people believe they are doing something.
“I think it is to divert attention from the real scenario, which is that this [kidnapping] has been organized by the authorities.”
Bith Kim Hong dismissed Sam Rainsy’s accusations and said that the main suspect in the case has a criminal record.
“Huoth Ravouth was charged with kidnapping and sentenced to 18 years in prison before he kidnapped Lon Phon,” Bith Kim Hong said. “And we are doing our best to find him and [his] accomplices.”