Sam Rainsy Party Criticizes Efforts to Catch Kidnapper

Despite several days of investigation, the main suspect in last month’s kidnapping of opposition party parliamentarian Lon Phon remains at large, and Sam Rainsy Party members are increasingly critical of the government’s at­tempts to solve this crime.

Sam Rainsy Party Senator Meng Ritha on Thursday called the search for suspect Huoth Ra­vouth, and the arrests already of three others, an “old trick” of CPP elements in the government to undermine opposition political parties.

“It’s really not a measure to­ward social order but a political game,” Meng Ritha said.

Lon Phon, the opposition par­ty’s Battambang province representative, was abducted outside his central Phnom Penh home Oct 6 but released unharmed three days later after an alleged ransom of $140,000 was paid to the kidnappers.

Authorities say the arrests earlier this month and the search for five others, including Huoth Ra­vouth—a 32-year-old medical student—will break up what has been described by police as a fairly extensive kidnapping ring.

The three in custody, including Huoth Ravouth’s brother, policeman Huoth Tharith, all have been charged with kidnapping and allegedly have accused Huoth Ravouth of masterminding the abduction.

Municipal court officials could not be reached Thursday. Munic­i­pal Deputy Police Chief Bith Kim Hong said Thursday that police were continuing to look for suspects. He declined to elaborate.

But opposition party officials maintain the kidnapping was orchestrated by CPP operatives as part of a larger political intimidation scheme aimed at weakening the Sam Rainsy Party.

“In Cambodia there are many kid­napping groups organized by the government for attacking and threatening opposition party members,” Meng Ritha said.

Government officials have repeatedly denied these allegations, saying the kidnappers were motivated only by the prospects of a large ransom.

Sam Rainsy noted last week, however, that Lon Phon, despite being a relatively successful businessman, was not a particularly lucrative target, noting that there are many other more likely targets in the government.


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