Two Burmese nationals were arrested Friday in Battambang province for allegedly illegally entering Cambodia in search of military support for a Burmese group fighting the Rangoon government, provincial officials said Monday.
Por Vannak, Battambang military police commander, said Mon Say and Kao Sik were detained in Samlot district by military police who found a letter written in English that said the two wanted to make contact with Cambodian soldiers sympathetic to fighting against Rangoon.
According to Por Vannak, Mon Say claimed he is the commander of an anti-government group in Burma.
The pair—who police say didn’t have passports—were charged with entering Cambodia illegally, Por Vannak said.
Pa Socheatvong, second deputy governor of Battambang, confirmed the arrests Monday, adding the two were handed over Sunday to Phnom Penh authorities.
“We have sent the case to the Ministry of Defense….We will leave it to the government to work out,” he said.
A human rights official criticized the arrest Monday, saying it was a case for immigration police.
“This is an issue of jurisdiction. They are civilians….The military police are being used for political tasks,” said the rights worker.
The rights worker also expressed concern the two could be forced to return to Burma in the same manner anti-Hanoi activists in Cambodia have been returned to Vietnam by force in the past.
Under the UN Convention on Refugees, to which Cambodia is a signatory, police cannot deport nationals who might face persecution in their home country, said the rights worker.
A spokesman for the Burmese Embassy in Phnom Penh said Monday the embassy had not been informed of the arrests of the two men. (Additional reporting by Deutsche Presse-Agentur)
Co-Minister of Defense Prince Sisowath Sirirath and Mol Roeup, deputy chief in charge of military intelligence, said Monday they could not discuss the case until they have been informed officially.