The investigating judge at the municipal court on Thursday confirmed an warrant has been issued to arrest Sam Bith for his involvement in the 1994 train ambush that killed at least 13 Cambodians and the subsequent kidnapping and slaying of three foreign tourists.
“I’m discussing this with the military police and asking them why they do not enforce the warrant yet,” said Judge Mong Mony Chariya.
He said he issued the warrant soon after Sam Bith missed his Jan 26 deadline to voluntarily come to court for questioning. “Now I wait for the result of the military police.”
But Sao Sokha, national military police chief, said on Thursday he has not had time to deal with the case since he returned from abroad two days ago.
“I have had many meetings since I got back. I do not have the warrant in my hands,” he said. “I think this case will be resolved in about 10 days.”
Sam Bith, a former Khmer Rouge guerrilla who now is an RCAF general, is suspected of ordering the raid that led to the eventual deaths of Briton Mark Slater, Frenchman Jean-Michel Bracquet and Australian David Wilson.
Each country’s embassy here last month sent a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen thanking him for the arrest of Chhouk Rin, the suspect thought to have led the attack, diplomats said.
They also urged the government to take swift action in the arrest of Sam Bith. But since then, little pressure has been applied.
“I wouldn’t describe things in terms of pressure,” Australian Ambassador Malcolm Leader said.
“We have said all along that those responsible for this should be brought to justice. But we don’t have any means or any desire to interfere in the judicial process,” he said.
Leader and other diplomatic sources said they know little about Sam Bith’s whereabouts since he missed his deadline to appear for questioning before Phnom Penh investigators.
Although authorities have said Sam Bith still resides at his farm in Sdao, some 25 km from Battambang town, one general reported last week he had come to Phnom Penh.
Military intelligence official Huor Sareth, who is also an ex-rebel, would not confirm Sam Bith’s whereabouts but said he is “nearby” Phnom Penh, noting that the case is “still under investigation.”
Court officials this week said they had not seen Sam Bith in their offices.
Diplomats acknowledge that arresting Sam Bith might be more difficult than apprehending Chhouk Rin, a colonel in the army, due to the political implications of indicting a general.
British Ambassador George Edgar, however, rejected any notion that a deal was made between the embassies and the government to let Sam Bith go free.
“We don’t get involved in that sort of thing,” he said on Thursday, maintaining that diplomats will discuss Sam Bith’s case “with appropriate officials at appropriate times.”