Ratanakkiri provincial police Friday arrested an SRP commune chief in O’Yadaw district for trafficking charges lodged against him more than five years ago by the provincial court, a court official said Monday.
Provincial Investigating Judge Horn Samnang said that Song Yen, chief of Pate commune, has been sent to the provincial prison for pre-trial detention.
Song Yen was accused in 2002 of attempting to present local ethnic minority villagers as Montagnard asylum seekers from Vietnam. Song Yen is accused of perpetrating the scam in exchange for money while he was working as a translator for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
Song Yen was charged in 2002 with three alleged crimes: human trafficking, cheating and incitement.
Horn Samnang said that Seng Yen allegedly took $1,500 from six villagers in his scam. The alleged ploy having failed, the villagers asked for their money back before complaining to the authorities, he said. “He…lied to UNHCR saying they were Montagnards because they wanted to go to the USA,” Horn Samnang said, adding that the case is still under investigation.
UNHCR spokeswoman Inge Sturkenboom said Song Yen was hired as a translator during the period he allegedly committed the crimes, but that he was not considered a permanent staff member.
“We don’t know about the charges or what he’s accused of,” she said. “He was not UNHCR staff.”
SRP Secretary-General Eng Chhay Eang claimed the charges against Song Yen were politically motivated.
“They wanted to frighten people not to vote for the Sam Rainsy Party,” he said. (Additional reporting by James Welsh)