Four Khmer Krom men were arrested by Thai authorities in Thailand’s Pathum Thani province outside Bangkok and are being charged with what Cambodian police claim are acts of terrorism and plans to attack Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government.
The arrests come exactly a week after the arrests of two other Khmer Krom men in the same province by Thai authorities on similarly vague charges.
Khmer Krom, or lower Khmer, refers to the ethnic Khmer community in southern Vietnam. Members of the Khmer Krom community frequently accuse the Vietnamese government of human rights abuses and repressing their cultural identity.
The four men arrested Friday— Yorn Kimsrun, 27; Yorn Yoeub, 25; Theac Kongphuong, 37; and Khem Ma, 28—will be extradited to Cambodia to face a litany of charges, Cambodian National Police spokesman Lieutenant General Kirth Chantharith said in a statement posted on the National Police’s website.
“The arrest of those people followed a court warrant for their arrest, they are charged with terrorism, distributing leaflets, possessing explosives, creating illegal armed forces and creating the Khmer National Rescue Front that violates the rule of Cambodian law,” the statement says.
Despite the police statement, no details regarding the alleged movement, alleged attack plans or alleged act of “terrorism” have been provided by police.
Taing Piseth, a representative of Khmer Krom refugees in Thailand employed by the U.N., declined to comment on whether any of the six men arrested were asylum seekers, saying that officials from the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Thailand told him not to speak publicly about the arrests.
One source close to the case said that the two Khmer Krom men arrested last week were political asylum seekers and were to be resettled in Australia in a matter of weeks.
James Heenan, the officer-in-charge of the U.N. human rights office in Cambodia, said he was concerned by the arrests, but didn’t have enough details to comment further.
Speaking by phone from Thailand on Sunday, Theach Tha, 52, the wife of Theach Soeu, one of the men arrested on March 8, said that her husband had been part of a group of Khmer Krom who were working to set up a Khmer Krom advocacy association in Thailand.
“We created an association because we wanted to protect all Khmer Krom people when we have problems, he was not against the government,” Ms. Tha said.
Yun Tharo, a Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker and president of the Khmer Kampuchea Krom Cultural Center, said the arrested men are innocent. “They were not involved with criminal activities,” he said.