Sihanoukist Head Demands Members’ Release

The leader of a pro-Sihanouk or­ganization implicated in an alleged scam involving the purchase of bogus membership cards in exchange for a promised parcel of land has demanded that his members be released.

“Police arrested my members because they wanted to extort money,” said Sun To, president of the Buddhist Association for Cambodian National Reconcil­iation of Sihanoukists. “My association’s members do not deceive the people,” he said Tuesday.

The court has charged four people linked to the group with fraud and forgery. The Ministry of  Interior also has a warrant for Sun To’s arrest, provincial Chief Pros­ecutor Mak Panny said Saturday.

At the association headquarters in Phnom Penh’s Wat Botum on Tues­day, Sun To, 75, said the organization was founded in 1992 on the Thai border with funding from retired King Norodom Siha­nouk. Sun To said he was a friend of the retired king when Norodom Sihanouk was a monk in 1950.

Norodom Sihanouk denoun­ced the scam in a statement posted on his Web site on Saturday.

Sun To presented a photocop­ied document purportedly show­ing approval for the organization’s creation from Norodom Siha­nouk in 1992. The retired King’s adviser, Prince Sisowath Thomico, said he had not seen the document and therefore could not confirm its authenticity.

Sun To also presented photocopies of documents signed by Untac members in 1992, the Ministry of the Interior in 1999 and Nat­ional Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh in 2002. He said his association, which claims support from more than 50,000 families, has helped construct a dam in Koh Kong province and provided land and rice to people. “My association is neutral and does not work for any political parties,” he said.

Provincial Judiciary Police Chief Chim Bunthoeun deniedthe charge. “Police did not take even 100 riel from [them],” he said.

He said the suspects admitted they collected $7.50 from people, keeping $2.50 and giving the association the rest.

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