The suspected ringleader of a so-called militant Islamic movement has claimed in detention that he is an informant for the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and was recruited to seek out terrorists in Cambodia, a rights worker and police said Tuesday.
Nhoung Samoeun, an investigator for local rights group Licadho in Pursat province, said Thab The told him at the provincial prison Tuesday that he was recruited in 2006 by a Cambodian-American FBI operative identified only as Cheakry.
“Thab The claimed that he is the chief of an investigation group for the FBI in Cambodia,” Nhoung Samoeun said by telephone.
Thab The claimed that Cheakry offered him a large amount of money to attract potential terrorists and terrorist suspects in Cambodia and then inform the FBI, he added.
Thab The also told the Licadho staffer that he was part of a group recruited by the FBI that had members in five countries including Thailand and Laos, and that he has visited Bangkok several times to meet with FBI officials and similar recruits from other countries.
Thab The, said Nhoung Samoeun, asked for a lawyer to whom he wants to divulge all his secrets.
US Embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle wrote in an e-mail that the FBI could neither confirm nor deny Thab The’s allegations.
“The FBI can neither confirm nor deny these claims at this time,” he wrote.
Stephen Kodak Jr, a supervisory special agent at the FBI National Press Office in Washington, referred e-mailed questions on the allegations back to the US Embassy.
Thab The, 54, was arrested along with three Cham Muslims last month for his alleged role in the so-called “Khmer Empire Movement,” which officials said was plotting to attack Vietnam and Thailand to recover Cambodian territory lost hundreds of years ago.
Sarun Chanthy, Pursat deputy provincial police chief, said Tuesday that shortly after Thab The was arrested he told police that he was working for an undercover FBI anti-terrorist group.
“Thab The said that his group members worked for the FBI as anti-terrorists to find [Osama] bin Laden,” he said.
Deputy National Police Commissioner Sok Phal, who works on police intelligence and counterterrorism, could not be reached for comment. Licadho president Kek Galabru and director Naly Pilorge also could not be contacted.
Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said that Thab The’s colorful claims were absurd.
“It is ridiculous for him to confess that he was recruited by the FBI,” he said, adding that Thab The should provide proof of his alleged FBI involvement.
“We have very good cooperation with the FBI,” Khieu Sopheak added.
According to Nhoung Samoeun, Thab The also claimed that he planned to use the money promised by Cheakry to buy an SRP lawmaker position through SRP lawmaker Cheam Channy.
Cheam Channy denied on Tuesday that he ever promised to give or sell Thab The—with whom he previously worked at the SRP’s controversial shadow defense committee—a position in the party. He added that he had no idea whether Thab The’s claims of international undercover work were true.