Khmer National Liberation Front Leader Returning to Denmark After Thai Visa Issue

samserey-04262018.jpg An undated photo by Cambodian Police of members of the Khmer National Liberation Front with founder Sam Serey (center, standing).
Photo courtesy of Cambodian National Police.

Sam Serey, the founder of the banned Khmer National Liberation Front and a critic of the Cambodian government, is headed to Denmark on Thursday after being held briefly in Thailand with visa issues, he told RFA’s Khmer Service.

“I will leave for Denmark tonight,” he told RFA early on Thursday by Skype from the Bangkok International Airport.

Sam Serey, who earlier this month was accused without evidence by Prime Minister Hun Sen of plotting bomb attacks at Cambodian temples, was detained in Thailand on Wednesday for overstaying his visa.

Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for Cambodia’s Ministry of Interior, was quoted by the Phnom Penh Post as saying “We are considering a request for his extradition.”

It was unclear if Thailand, which is under military rule and has sent political refugees back to authoritarian countries in the past, had received a Cambodian extradition request or if Bangkok did, why it didn’t heed it.

A close associate of Sam Serey who asked not to be named told RFA via telephone Wednesday that the United Nations and Denmark government were helping in the case to make sure that he would be sent back to Denmark.

The Cambodian government considers the KNLF a hostile political group that seeks to topple Hun Sen and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) government.

In 2016, Sam Serey, who received political asylum in Denmark, was sentenced in absentia by Cambodian court to nine years of imprisonment over the alleged attempts to attack the government. Hun Sen has accused Sam Serey of committing treason.

According to the Phnom Penh Post, more than 20 affiliates of Sam Serey have been arrested in recent years, but none have ever been found with weapons.

On April 10, Hun Sen also accused Sam Serey and several other people including a Buddhist monk of plotting to set a bomb at Wat Phnom and Siem Reap during the Khmer New Year.

Hun Sen, however, failed to show any evidence of the plot except a leaked recorded phone conversation with a Buddhist that was published on the government-aligned online newspaper FreshNews of unconfirmed authenticity.

Sam Serey denied such accusation during an interview with RFA. The Buddhist monk who was implicated in the audio recording also denied the allegations.

Reported by RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Sovannarith Keo. Written in English by Paul Eckert.

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