Sam Rainsy Party member Sok Yoeun was arrested Friday by Thai police, a Thai diplomat confirmed Sunday, but the Thai government remains hesitant to act on Cambodia’s demands that he be extradited to face trial for his alleged involvement in last year’s Siem Reap rocket attack.
Despite being granted “concerned persons” status by the Bangkok office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Sok Yoeun was taken into custody on charges that he entered Thailand illegally while fleeing possible arrest in Cambodia.
But Thai government officials have not yet decided what to do with the Battambang province farmer, who has been characterized by Prime Minister Hun Sen as an “international terrorist.”
Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong sent a letter to Thai officials Saturday asking for cooperation in bringing Sok Yoeun back to Cambodia, the diplomat said.
It remains unclear, though, what level of commitment Cambodia can expect from Thai officials, who are discussing the case, the diplomat said. Thai authorities have not made any requests for more information or evidence that would justify them sending Sok Yoeun back to Cambodia.
Opposition party members and rights workers familiar with this case maintain that Sok Yoeun is innocent, pointing out that there is only a small body of evidence against him and claiming that the government’s rocket attack investigation is an orchestrated attempt by the CPP to damage the Sam Rainsy Party.
Cambodian authorities have so far refused to release any of the evidence against Sok Yoeun, only saying his case is being investigated.
Hun Sen supporters say the rocket was fired at the prime minister as he rode in a convoy of newly elected parliamentarians. But critics of Hun Sen say the attack was planned by members of his own camp to justify a crackdown of opposition party members.
Two other Sam Rainsy Party members remain in custody after being arrested in connection with the attack, which left one bystander dead.
Sam Rainsy Party members are currently trying to discredit the government’s best piece of evidence against Sok Yoeun—a videotaped confession that played on Thai television Saturday in which a man identified as Sok Yoeun admitted to taking a $10,000 advance from four unidentified Cambodian generals, with $400,000 promised in return for Hun Sen’s death.
Both Sam Rainsy and Sok Yoeun have released statements saying the confession was coerced and denying any involvement in the attack.
According to a letter written in October by Sok Yoeun to the president of Amnesty International, the confession was forced by a man opposition party members say was once a Sam Rainsy ally in Thailand now in the pay of the CPP.
Sam Rainsy has called these latest events part of a larger intimidation campaign against the CPP’s political opponents, particularly in Battambang and Siem Reap provinces, where a number of party members have been either threatened or arrested.
The opposition leader said that Sok Yoeun was one of his most active members in Battambang. The former Funcinpec member joined the Sam Rainsy Party and opened the party’s first office in Battambang province, according to a written statement issued Saturday by Sam Rainsy.
“It is no surprise that the dictatorial and cynical Hun Sen regime wants to eliminate Sok Yoeun, as they have already eliminated scores of Cambodian democrats and patriots,” Sam Rainsy said.