Cambodian authorities continued Tuesday to refuse to make public any evidence they have against opposition activist Sok Yoeun, who is facing possible extradition from Thailand.
Their refusal comes a day after Thai officials said they would consider cooperating with Cambodia on an extradition effort, but that they wanted “details” of the crime allegedly committed by the Sam Rainsy Party member.
Thai diplomatic sources said Tuesday it remained unclear how much evidence Thai officials will demand as they decide whether Sok Yoeun should be returned to Cambodia to face prosecution.
Sok Yoeun remains in Thai custody after being arrested Saturday for entering the country illegally. He fled there several months ago after being labeled a suspect in last year’s Siem Reap rocket attack by Cambodian military intelligence officials.
RCAF intelligence chief Mol Roeup on Tuesday continued to say only that Sok Yoeun’s case was in the hands of “competent authorities” and deflected criticisms of perhaps their strongest piece of evidence against Sok Yoeun—a videotaped confession where the opposition party activist admits to taking part in the rocket attack in exchange for more than $400,000.
Both Sok Yoeun and opposition party leader Sam Rainsy say the confession was forced from Sok Yoeun in Bangkok by a former Sam Rainsy Party fixer now allegedly assisting CPP loyalists.
During the past several days, Sam Rainsy has released several statements detailing how the confession was allegedly extracted from Sok Yoeun, whom he described as a Battambang province activist and victim of Vietnamese imprisonment during the 1980s.
But Mol Roeup denied CPP operatives had any role in the confession, which was made in October but only recently aired on Thai television after being leaked to Thai military intelligence.
“Cambodian officials have nothing to do with these [allegations the confession was forced],” he said. “The confession was made in Thailand. How could we have had anything to do with that?”
Thai Lieutenant General Vichit Yathip met with senior Cambodian officials here today, in part to discuss the videotape and the Sok Yoeun case, according to the Bangkok Post. However, both Cambodian and Thai officials said Tuesday the meeting was to discuss security for Thai Princess Sirin Dhorn’s February visit.
Mol Roeup maintained that attempts to discredit Sok Yoeun’s confession—which he said would alone be enough to justify extradition—was the work of opposition party members trying to disrupt the government’s investigation into the case.
Foreign Affairs Ministry officials said Tuesday they were starting work with military court officials to assemble information about the case, which will be eventually turned over to Thai officials. But the court’s chief judge, Ney Thol, refused to comment on the case Tuesday.
Rights workers continue to criticize the evidence against Sok Yoeun and two other opposition members in custody in connection with the rocket attack.
Supporters of Hun Sen claim the attack was an attempt on the prime minister’s life and have pointed to the Sam Rainsy Party. Critics of the prime minister have maintained the attack was orchestrated by Hun Sen supporters to justify a crackdown on opposition party members. Some diplomats and political observers have said it was likely a legitimate assassination attempt, but that Hun Sen was not the target.
Cambodian authorities have only gathered witness statements and letters written on Sam Rainsy Party letterhead that refer to the attack, rights workers say. These, they claim, can be easily faked and don’t justify an arrest.
But in Sok Yoeun’s case, this may be enough to bring him back to Cambodia. A western diplomatic source said extradition cases generally don’t require a high level of evidence to succeed.
“You don’t have to prove the case, you just have to have enough to allow somebody to be charged,” the source said.
Thai officials have also discussed prosecuting Sok Yoeun for immigration law violations, and there is a possibility he could be sent to a third country. He has some level of protection from the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees in Bangkok, who granted him the status of a Person of Concern while considering his bid for political asylum. This status has not affected his arrest, a Thai diplomat said.
(Additional reporting by Chea Sovirak)