Rocket Attacker Arrest Called Retribution

Opposition party members say last week’s arrest of a suspect linked to the 1998 B-40 rocket attack against a motorcade of top politicians is part of a larger intimidation campaign against the government’s political opponents.

Mong Davuth, who registered with the Sam Rainsy Party in 1997 under the name Bee Kimsour, is being held at a Phnom Penh military prison for his alleged role in the attack, human rights officials said Thursday evening.

“It is a trick against the Sam Rainsy Party…in response to demands by Sam Rainsy to create an international court to try Khmer Rouge leaders,” Meng Rita, the party’s deputy secretary general, said Thursday.

A top military police official, Mam Samon, confirmed Thurs­day that a suspect was arrested by military intelligence officers last Friday in connection to the Siem Reap town attack that killed one bystander and injured three others.

The rocket exploded along the route of a long procession of vehicles including Prime Minister Hun Sen, Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh, opposition leader Sam Rainsy and dozens of other National Assembly members and top government officials. Hun Sen’s aides immediately categorized the incident a blundered attempt on their boss’ life.

Sam Rainsy was Hun Sen’s most vocal critic two weeks ago as the prime minister pushed for a Cambodian-dominated court to try former Khmer Rouge leaders.

Three opposition party members in Battambang have also been harassed by police and a fourth was detained briefly by authorities who tried to get him to make a criminal complaint against the three, Meng Rita alleged.

Police and court officials in Phnom Penh denied knowledge of such actions.

Human rights officials are continuing to look into last week’s Siem Reap town arrest but could not say whether it can be connected to the Sam Rainsy Party.

According to Eva Galabru, director of the local human rights group Licadho, Mong Davuth was arrested around midnight on Sept 3 by about 20 military police. Though a military prosecutor did issue an arrest warrant, Galabru said she didn’t know what charges have been leveled against Mong Davuth.

Galabru said the case should have been handled by Siem Reap authorities.

“There’s no justification why this man should be detained in a military prison or prosecuted in a military court,” Galabru said in an interview Thursday.

She said Licadho officials would try to confirm Mong Davuth’s location and speak with him personally.

Though Hun Sen called the 1998 attack an assassination attempt, it’s unclear if the rocket was fired specifically at his vehicle. Hun Sen critics claim he orchestrated the attack himself to justify a crackdown on opposition party members.

(Additional reporting by The Associated Press)



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