The arrest Saturday of Khmer Rouge commander Nuon Paet came less than two weeks after Australian Ambassador Malcolm Leader met National Police Director-General Hok Lundy to talk about the longtime fugitive.
Leader said Wednesday that his visit to the Interior Ministry compound less than a week before the July 26 election was prompted by an Australian television news broadcast that cast doubt on the government’s efforts to apprehend Nuon Paet.
The ambassador said the meeting was routine. He said Hok Lundy asserted it was the National Police force’s duty to get Nuon Paet, wanted for the 1994 murders of three Western backpackers, including an Australian.
Nuon Paet was captured Saturday morning after being lured to Phnom Penh on a business deal involving automobiles. He arrived in the capital by helicopter from Battambang town, Interior Ministry officials said.
A top Interior Ministry official said Wednesday that the apprehension of Nuon Paet so quickly after the meeting indicates an efficient and prompt National Police response to concerns of the international community.
“The police should be credited for this work,’’ said the official, who asked not to be identified. He said police officials have focused their attention in recent months on providing election security. “This was fast action after the election,’’ the official said.
Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said Wednesday the plan to capture Nuon Paet was carried out by “special police professionals’’ under the direct command of Hok Lundy.
Leader said his government was pleased Nuon Paet was in T3 prison and was hopeful the legal process would bring justice.
He declined to comment on the work of the Cambodian authorities, who maintain they have been seeking the commander for nearly four years. “We’re very pleased that the warrant was carried out,’’ Leader said. “We’d been seeking that for some time. But I cannot comment on the specifics of the police operation.’’
Khuon Sophon, a top municipal police official, said Wednesday that Nuon Paet was staying in an area known as Sen Chau, south of Pailin, near Samlot district in Battambang province.