Former Khmer Rouge commander Sam Bith, wanted for his alleged involvement in the 1994 killing of three Western backpackers, has resurfaced, having been spotted at a Pailin restaurant last week.
Police and government officials had previously reported Sam Bith’s whereabouts as unknown.
Sam Bith has never appeared in court to answer the charges in the kidnappings and killings of Australian David Wilson, Briton Mark Slator and French citizen Jean-Michel Braquet. All three men were taken from a Kampot province train in 1994 and held hostage for two months before they were killed.
A court in 1999 convicted Khmer Rouge rebel leader Nuon Paet of kidnapping and murder charges and sentenced him to life imprisonment for the slayings.
Sam Bith, however, has eluded capture. According to co-Minister of Defense Prince Sisowath Sirirath, a warrant for Sam Bith‘s arrest has been issued.
“This is not a new story,” Prince Sirirath said Sunday. “The diplomatic community is deeply concerned about this case and always stressed the importance of putting him on trial. If [Sam Bith] is in the area, we will arrest him.”
According to one eyewitness, Sam Bith was in a restaurant near the Pailin Municipal Police Station last week.
Also, the Bangkok Post reported last week that Sam Bith was seen living in a $38,000 house in the area between Pailin and Battambang.
“We have constantly raised the case of David Wilson at the highest levels and urged that all those responsible should be brought to justice…. And we hope that any new leads will be pursued by the Cambodian authorities,” Australian Ambassador Louise Hand told the Bangkok Post last week.
British Ambassador Stephen Bridges said Sunday he had not heard of the recent sightings of Sam Bith.
In 1994, Sam Bith was reported to have been in control of the Khmer Rouge in Kampot and was reputed to be a deputy of the notorious Khmer Rouge leader Ta Mok. Sam Bith defected to the government in 1996.
(Additional reporting by David Kihara)
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