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Thailand deports KNLF president

Khuon Narim / Khmer Times Share:
KNLF president Sam Serey was arrested by Thai authorities for overstaying his visa. Supplied

Sam Serey, president of the Khmer National Liberation Front, was sent back to Denmark last week after being arrested by Thai authorities for overstaying his visa.

Mr Serey confirmed that he arrived in Denmark on Friday morning thanks to intervention from Human Rights Watch, the Danish embassy in Bangkok, and the United Nations.

Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said on Thursday that Cambodian officials were preparing documents to have Mr Serey extradited.

The ministry asked Thailand to send him to Cambodia to serve out his prison sentence. Mr Serey was sentenced in absentia to nine years in prison for trying to topple the government in 2014.

Mr Serey described his time in detention in Bangkok, saying Thai authorities found his name on a blacklist.

“I went to get my visa extended at the Chaeng Watthana Immigration Office where officials told me that I could not extend my visa because my name was on the blacklist. Then they took me to the immigration police,” he said.

“After that they prepared to send me to the Immigration Detention Centre located in Suan Plu. In the meantime, the Cambodian government tried to contact the Thai government to extradite me back to Cambodia,” Mr Serey added.

“Thai officials decided to send me back to Denmark,” he said, expressing gratitude to everyone who intervened on his behalf.

Earlier this month, Mr Serey and his KNLF, branded a terrorist organisation by Prime Minister Hun Sen, were accused of plotting bomb attacks in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap province prior to Khmer New Year.

Last week, the Council of Minister’s Press and Quick Reaction Unit released an 18-minute video accusing the KNLF of colluding with former opposition leader Sam Rainsy in a plot to overthrow the government.

Mr Serey was granted asylum in Demark after living as refugee in Thailand for a number of years and has established a government-in-exile in Denmark.

However, Denmark has confirmed that they do not recognise any other government than the government in Phnom Penh.

Since 2014, about 20 KNLF members have been convicted after being found guilty of plotting to topple the government and inciting people to protest against the government. Each was sentenced to between one and ten years in jail.

General Sopheak could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Sok Eysan, spokesman for the ruling CPP, said that even though the two countries have an extradition agreement, Thailand had the right to make its own decision.

“It is Thailand’s right. We cannot force them because they are sovereign and independent,” Mr Eysan said.

“However, the Cambodian government still wants the traitor Sam Serey because we have a court verdict.”

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