Opposition leader Sam Rainsy will travel to Thailand today to testify in court on behalf of Cambodian fugitive Sok Yoeun, who is facing extradition on charges he tried to kill Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Sok Yoeun was arrested in Bangkok on Dec 24, 1999, for entering Thailand illegally, after Hun Sen accused Thailand of harboring terrorists.
Sok Yoeun fled Cambodia in 1998 after a rocket attack outside Siem Reap on the prime minister’s motorcade.
Hun Sen was unharmed in the attack, but one bystander was killed.
Sam Rainsy hopes to convince the court in “very simple terms” that Sok Yoeun is innocent, the opposition leader said Monday.
“Sok Yoeun has never been to Siem Reap. He was in Battambang [at the time of the attack] and Siem Reap is full of soldiers. It was someone younger, someone in better health,” Sam Rainsy said.
Sok Yoeun is 62 years old and has been diagnosed with tuberculosis. He suffers from a skin condition that has turned patches of his skin white, thus making him conspicuous, Sam Rainsy has argued.
Sok Yoeun was the first to designate his house a Sam Rainsy Party headquarters in Battambang and raise the party flag.
“Hun Sen wants to target me and condemn me as a terrorist leader,” Sam Rainsy said.
“Sok Yoeun is a small fish and I am the big fish. They hope the small fish will lead them to the big fish. I think Sok Yoeun is a hostage,” Sam Rainsy said.
The affair is political, and the Thai government hopes to appease Hun Sen, Sam Rainsy said. He added that an acquittal would result in a loss of face for Hun Sen.
During his visit to Cambodia in June, Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said he would not consider extraditing Sok Yoeun to Cambodia.
Sam Rainsy said he thinks the Thais “will buy time so that he may die in prison. It would be very convenient for everyone—except, of course, Sok Yoeun.”