Parliamentarian Lon Phon Released After 4-Day Kidnapping

Opposition party parliamentarian Lon Phon was released Sat­ur­day night, four days after being kidnapped by armed men outside his central Phnom Penh home. 

With a substantial loan from unnamed government officials, Lon Phon’s family was able to put together a $140,000 ransom to secure his release, the parliamentarian said Sunday.

Though other opposition party members call the kidnapping a case of political intimidation, the government has denied it, and even Lon Phon said he did not know why he was targeted.

“It’s very strange that this should happen to a government employee. It should only happen to businessmen or rich people,” Lon Phon said in an interview Sun­day at his modest third-floor apartment.

On Wednesday evening, the parliamentarian was forced into a car by four armed men wearing military-style uniforms, while his bodyguard was taking his wife to the market, he said.

Lon Phon described being handcuffed and blindfolded after he was struck on the head with the butt of a pistol and pushed into the car.

He said he was driven to a villa about 20 minutes from his home, but the kidnappers moved him a short time later after they became afraid police would discover them.

Lon Phon said he was taken to another, smaller building but was later returned to the villa, where he was kept in an air-conditioned room until he was let go, unharmed, on Saturday.

The parliamentarin’s captors put him on a motorbike and dropped him off near Wat Phnom, Lon Phon said.

During that time, Lon Phon said his kidnappers spoke very little to him, only telling him that he was arrested on the orders of some other, unknown person.

He said he was kept blind-folded during his entire imprisonment but was otherwise treated well by his captors.

Over the weekend, Lon Phon said his family remained in contact with the authorities and other government officials, including members of Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng’s office.

It was through this office that a $120,000 interest-free loan was secured and delivered to the family by Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak’s wife, Lon Phon said.

The remaining $20,000 was raised by Lon Phon’s family through loans from family and friends, he said.

The ransom was delivered to a Kandal province street by one of Lon Phon’s family, who was told by the kidnappers via the phone where to bring the money.

Authorities were not notified of the drop-off because the family feared Lon Phon would be harmed.

Khieu Sopheak confirmed Sunday that a loan was received by Lon Phon’s family through the government.

He said police are continuing to investigate the kidnapping, and that they had suspects.

“We expect that we will have arrests within two or three days,” Khieu Sopheak said.

But Lon Phon said he continues to worry about his safety and is concerned that future attacks may be carried out against his family.

He was particularly critical of the government’s inability to protect him, noting this was the first time such an attack has been made against a member of parliament.

Sam Rainsy Party members continued to maintain Sunday that Lon Phon was abducted for political rather than financial reasons.

His kidnapping closely followed the arrest of two other Sam Rainsy Party members in connection with last year’s B-40 rocket attack in Siem Reap, which has been described by CPP supporters as an attempt on Prime Minister Hun Sen’s life, though the intent of the attack remains unclear.

These cases have drawn attention from several foreign aid organizations, including Human Rights Watch Asia, which released a statement last week citing its concern about what it views as a “pattern of state harassment” of both Sam Rainsy and Funcinpec party members.

(Additional reporting by Chea Sovirak and Pin Sisovann)

 

 

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