Relatives and lawyers of four suspects arrested in connection with the Jan 2 discovery of explosive devices in Phnom Penh have been prevented from visiting the men in prison, local human rights groups said.
Representatives from at least five rights organizations, who also doubt the culpability of the four men, left for Mondolkiri province Monday to meet with the family of former provincial police chief Reach Samnang, one of the four suspects, Adhoc monitor Chan Soveth.
The representatives will also investigate the so-called Tiger Head movement, which the government claims is an armed anti-government group that was allegedly behind the bomb plot, Chan Soveth said.
“We have our doubts, and the four men arrested do not seem like real terrorists at all,” Chan Soveth said by telephone Sunday.
Details of the planting of three bombs near the Ministry of Defense did not match the scenario of an underground resistance attempting to take down the government, he said.
“Some of the items used to fabricate the bomb are not real terrorist [materials],” he added.
Reach Samnang, along with RCAF soldier Loek Bun Nhean, and former RCAF intelligence officers Phy Saving and Som Ek were charged Jan 12 by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court with “conscripting and training terrorist forces and planting explosives in public places.”
Municipal Court chief clerk Prak Savuth said relatives should request permission from the investigating judge assigned to the case if they want to visit the suspects in prison, which is the procedure. Prak Savuth added that he had not yet received any requests to visit the men.
When Adhoc and Licadho investigators recently visited Som Ek’s family at his home in Bantey Meanchey province’s Poipet commune, six local police were stationed at the family’s home in O’Chrov district, and some sat down next to Som Ek’s father-in-law, Hul Chheng, 68, as he spoke with human rights workers.
“Hul Chheng was afraid and reluctant to tell us about the arrest of his [son-in-law]. He looked very nervous,” Ung Somith, a Licadho activist in the commune, said by telephone Sunday.
He added that the families of all four suspects were not allowed to see them in prison.
District police chief Nuth Ly said his police first guarded the house on orders from the Ministry of Interior but withdrew when the police investigation ended.
National Police spokesman Kieth Chanthearith said the police had done its part and the municipal court is now in charge of the investigation.