Co-Minister of Interior Sar Kheng is expected to ask incoming US Ambassador Charles Ray for the extradition of self-confessed Cambodian Freedom Fighters commander Chhun Yasith during their first meeting next week, a top Ministry of Interior official said.
The extradition request comes less than a month after police uncovered an alleged plot involving several high-explosive TNT bombs found in a brothel in Siem Reap town. Authorities have blamed the CFF rebel group for the bombs.
“We want to talk to the [US Federal Bureau of Investigation] about Chhun Yasith,” the Interior Ministry official said on Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity. “We want to ask if [the FBI] can arrest Chhun Yasith or invite him to answer questions about his activities in Cambodia.”
Ultimately, the Ministry of Interior wants to have Chhun Yasith returned to Cambodia, where he was convicted in absentia and sentenced to life in prison for his role in a November 2000 coup attempt in Phnom Penh that left more than four people dead, the official said.
Meeting with the ambassador is the first step in the extradition process, the official said.
Authorities have arrested at least seven people in connection with the December 2002 Siem Reap bomb plot and claimed that the leader of the plan, Sok Nou Son, has ties to the rebel group.
Chhun Yasith currently resides in Long Beach, in the US state of California. He previously denied any involvement in the Siem Reap bomb plot.
Heidi Bronke, spokeswoman for the US Embassy, confirmed on Friday that Ray will meet with Sar Kheng next week but characterized that meeting as a “courtesy call”—a standard introductory meeting when a new ambassador comes to town. Ray is scheduled to meet other high ranking Cambodian officials as well, she said.
Bronke declined to comment on extraditing Chhun Yasith, saying it is a matter decided by the US Justice Department.
The FBI had previously investigated Chhun Yasith, most recently on Sept 11, 2001.