Opposition Doubts Official’s Version on Kidnapping Case

Opposition party leaders continue to doubt the government’s claim that it has arrested the right suspects in last month’s kidnapping of Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Lon Phon.

“I don’t believe it,” Sam Rainsy said flatly Tuesday night. He main­tained the Oct 6 abduction was orchestrated by CPP operatives in the government intent on weakening his party.

Sam Rainsy called last week’s arrests and detention of three

pe­ople part of this scheme, saying the arrests were made “to make the people believe [the authorities] are doing something.”

The three suspects, including municipal policeman Hourth Tharith, all have denied being in­volved in the kidnapping. But both Hourth Tharith and his moth­er, Yen Sipha, have admitted to taking a total of $8,000 from family member Hourth Tha­vuth, the 32-year-old medical student who is suspected of organizing the kidnapping.

Hourth Thavuth’s girlfriend, Bo Chenda Mony, was ar­rested last week but quickly re­leased.

Police are looking for five more suspects who remain at large, Deputy Municipal Police Chief Bith Kim Hong said Tues­day at a press conference.

Rights workers also say they are skeptical the government has arrested the right people, saying there appears to be little evidence that those detained were involved in the kidnapping.

Lon Phon was abducted by four armed men near his central Phnom Penh home but released unharmed three days later after a reported ransom of $140,000—in part made up of a loan from un­nam­ed government officials—was paid.

One rights worker said several of the details of the kidnapping provided by the authorities don’t match accounts of the incident made by Lon Phon.

Of particular concern to the rights worker is the location of the house where Lon Phon was allegedly held and a bloody shirt belonging to Lon Phon police allegedly retrieved from the house—proving, according to authorities, that Lon Phon was held there.

The rights worker and Sam Rainsy Party members said they need more information from the government to be convinced the right people have been arrested.

Lon Phon declin­ed Tuesday to comment on the arrests before getting more information about the case from police.

He said he could not recognize the names of the suspects and did not say whether he thought the wrong people were arrested.

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