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Police arrest alleged coup mastermind

Taing Vida / Khmer Times Share:

A man suspected of being a mastermind behind the trafficking of illegal firearms for a coup plot was questioned yesterday by Phnom Penh Municipal Court following his arrest Tuesday evening.

Interior Ministry spokesman General Khieu Sopheak identified the suspect as Ros Samon, also known as Kroch, and noted that he was arrested by police in Preah Vihear province.

Police have linked a total of ten people to the alleged coup plot to be carried out by Khmer National Liberation Front and the Tiger Head movement members, both labelled terrorist organisations by the government.

During separate raids on Friday in three provinces, police apprehended eight suspects and confiscated 28 AK-47 assault rifles. All eight were charged with trafficking illegal firearms and organising an armed group. They have been jailed pending trial.

Gen Sopheak said police believe Mr Samon is a member of the Khmer National Liberation Front and one of the masterminds behind the plot. The other mastermind, Beng Sokha, also known as Mao, remains at large.

“Police in Preah Vihear province on Tuesday arrested one more suspect who is one of the leaders of the group,” Gen Sopheak said. “He was brought to Phnom Penh Municipal Court for questioning.”

Court spokesman Ly Sophanna declined to comment yesterday.

In a report, police said an AK-47 assault rifle, one handgun and a number of explosives and ammunition were confiscated during the arrest of Mr Samon.

Gen Sopheak said police are now looking to arrest more suspects believed to be involved, noting that Interior Minister Sar Kheng has offered $50,000 for officers who make the arrests.

Lieutenant General Y Sokhy, chief of the ministry’s terrorism and transnational crime department, declined to comment.

“Our officers are still working on this case, so I can’t give further comment,” Lt Gen Sokhy said.

Exiled KNLF president Sam Serey yesterday denied knowing Mr Samon and Mr Sokha.

“I do not know them. This was organised by police and the Interior Ministry to defame the KNLF and I,” Mr Serey said. “They accused me of attempting to topple the government, which is a serious crime. Luckily, I escaped and am able to live in Denmark.”

He said the KNLF is a peaceful movement advocating development and social order, not an armed group planning to overthrow the government, calling on the government to conduct a genuine investigation into the matter.

In 2014, Mr Serey was sentenced in absentia to nine years in prison for attempting to topple the government. He was granted asylum in Denmark after living as a refugee in Thailand for a number of years.

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