In another bizarre twist since an anti-government group staged an attack on government offices three weeks ago, a fax purporting to be from the board of directors of the Cambodian Freedom Fighters has condemned its leader Chhun Yasith and denied all responsibility associated with his “single-handed acts.”
The fax, dated Nov 30 but not sent until Wednesday, was signed by Thong Samien as the secretary general of the board, and Maly Hay as the treasurer.
Both men are believed to be in the US. Neither could be reached for comment Wednesday.
The fax also accuses Chhun Yasith of sexual misconduct and of betraying “all sense of idealism and rationalism within our organization. He has unequivocally demonstrated his beastly behavior and astute gangsterism unbecoming the leader of our organization,” it said.
Thong Samien is the uncle-in-law of Om Yentieng, one of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s closest advisers, and is one of four Cambodian-Americans charged with acts of terrorism and membership in an illegal armed force for the Nov 24 attack that left as many as eight dead.
Chhun Yasith’s “misdeeds and abhorrent conduct” have caused “colossal damage and disservice to the entire CFF organization and its good principles which we truthfully embrace,” the fax said.
Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said such internal fighting shows the CFF is falling apart. “It’s a bit late to make this kind of declaration, after they have seen that their plans are not so easy to achieve,” he said.
“This shows that they are not well organized,” Khieu Kanharith said. “They are not as strong as they claimed.”
David Sao, Chhun Yasith’s spokesman in Thailand, called Thong Samien and Maly Hay “internal enemies” and accused them of working for the ruling CPP. He also noted that Thong Samien is no longer secretary general of the organization, having been replaced by Richard Kiri Kim, the Cambodian-American in custody who confessed to leading the attack.
“Thong Samien is chicken, he’s scared now,” Sao said. “There is a small group that has betrayed us. Thong Samien is working for the CPP. Om Yentieng is his uncle. He’s trying to screw the CFF.”
But just last week, another CFF executive board member, Kia Dee, called Thong Samien a CFF leader, and asked how Om Yentieng felt about having him as a relative.
Wednesday, Om Yentieng showed little interest in defending his relative. “Thong Samien wants to escape from the crime, and now he and Chhun Yasith are going to paint the color to blame the CPP,” he said.
Sao also noted there are 500 people on the Board of Directors and that Thong Samien is speaking for only a few people, not the entire board.
“The US cannot have two names registered as CFF so he (Thong Samien) must be arrested for using our name,” Sao said. “He is violating our copyright. If Chhun Yasith did everything secretly, how could he had enough help from people to attack Phnom Penh?”
According to the faxed statement, the board has repeatedly, but unsuccessfully tried to recall Chhun Yasith since July 21, saying he has “absolutely and completely ignored and cast aside all written directives, bylaws and high standards of ethics.”
The fax from the CFF board of directors said that since late July, Chhun Yasith has been organizing his own secret group within the CFF without the knowledge or consent of the board.
“Chhun Yasith has predisposed and usurped all legal and original board members to fulfill his power-mongering desires,” the fax said. “Furthermore, Chhun Yasith has issued death threats to certain members who disavowed their associations with him. He has committed a series of sexual misconduct and incest in his redoubts along Thai-Cambodian border.”
There was no explanation of what was meant by those charges.
The fax condemned and rebutted Chhun Yasith’s activities, denying all responsibility for his acts, calling for a special referendum soon to solve the crisis and to reconfigure the executive board in accordance with the CFF bylaws.
Chhun Yasith, 44, left his accounting firm in Long Beach in the US state of California a few months ago, and hasn’t been seen by residents in the area since. Sao said Chhun Yasith is staying in Thailand near the Cambodian border.
Chhun Yasith was a founding member of the Khmer Nation Party, the precursor to the Sam Rainsy Party, and was elected deputy chairman of the US-West Coast branch of the party.
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said he knew Chhun Yasith as a fighter and a courageous man, but one who also enjoyed living the good life.
When Chhun Yasith came to the Thai border to help resistance forces after the factional fighting broke out in 1997, he brought supplies and money for the troops.
While he was there, Chhun Yasith also went out to nightclubs, casinos and other entertainment places.
“He had no more money to pay for an airport taxi, so I had to lend him some money,” Sam Rainsy said. “He spent all his money going out on the town.”
Chhun Yasith also is known to have three wives and many mistresses. He has been accused of rape in the US, but the case never went to court, and the alleged victim is now one of his wives, according to Tioulong Samaura, Sam Rainsy’s wife and an opposition parliamentarian.
“He likes to be presented as Rambo,” Sam Rainsy said. “He wants to play a big military man. He likes to think he is powerful. But he has no values. And when you need money like you need drugs, you can easily be manipulated.”
Another government official described how Chhun Yasith constantly asked at that time if he could take pictures of himself in front of the military base along the border.
“Chhun Yasith wanted pictures of himself with guns,” the official said. “He was not anyone at that time. He wanted to be famous and powerful.”