Hun Sen demands arrest of US-based "terrorist" mastermind
publiziert: Samstag, 25. Nov 2000 / 15:47 Uhr

Phnom Penh - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday demanded that U.S. authorities arrest a Cambodian-American he accused of masterminding Friday's guerrilla attacks that left eight people dead.

"The United States must arrest the leader of this terrorist group and send him to Cambodia to face trial," Hun Sen told reporters on his return from a regional meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

"At the very least, the U.S. has to arrest these people and try them in U.S. courts," he said. The prime minister did not mention any suspects by name, but local officials have said that California-based Chhun Yasith is the leader of the Cambodian Freedom Fighters, who in a radio interview Saturday claimed responsibility for the attacks on government buildings that left eight people dead.

An unidentified spokesman for the CFF told Radio Free Asia on Saturday that there would be more attacks on government positions. until Hun Sen's government is toppled. "This is the first test for our fighting forces," the Cambodian Freedom Fighters spokesman said. "There will be more and more attacks in the future. We will not give up."

The spokesman was not identified in the broadcast, but RFA reporters confirmed that he is a known member of the Cambodian Freedom Fighters who lives in the U.S. The admission of responsibility for the attacks, which left at least eight people dead and 14 wounded, leaves the U.S. in the awkward position of having admitted terrorists on its soil.

Hun Sen in August called on the U.S. to extradite Chhun Yasith, the movement's reputed leader, who has been living in the Cambodian exile community of Long Beach, California. The U.S. has no extradition treaty with Cambodia, but U.S. Ambassador Kent Wiedemann said that Chhun Yasith could be jailed by his adopted country if there is evidence he ordered the attack.

"If what has been alleged against the CFF turns out to be true, that's a violation of U.S. law as well as Cambodian law," Wiedemann said. "I would strongly urge an investigation by the United States authorities into these allegations because terrorism is a scourge on the planet and the U.S. condemns it."

Though its main base of support is in the U.S., the insurgency's Cambodia operations are believed to be based in secret camps along the Thai border. It was unclear Saturday exactly where Chhun Yasith was. A former overseas member of Cambodia's main opposition party, the Sam Rainsy Party, he split with the party in 1997, reportedly to raise an army to fight against the Hun Sen government.

"He disagreed with our policy of non-violence and was in favour of starting an armed struggle," said Tioulong Saumura,, a member of the Sam Rainsy Party's steering committee. She said she could not remember if Chhun Yasith left the party or was expelled for his views.

At first, few took the new self-proclaimed resistance seriously. When the CFF first began faxing out statements vowing armed resistance against the government, some government officials dismissed it as simply a few zealots and a fax machine, with little firepower.

Friday's fighting dispelled that notion for good, though there had been warning signs that the CFF was more than a name-only resistance. The CFF has in past months been distributing leaflets in Phnom Penh and elsewhere urging citizens to rise up against the "communist" government. The group considers Hun Sen, who was first installed in power by occupying Vietnamese troops in the 1980s, as a "puppet" of Hanoi, even though his party renounced communism years ago.

And in April 1999, authorities in Phnom Penh arrested five alleged CFF members, whom they accused of plotting to blow up a fuel depot that held much of the country's petrol supply.

(la/dpa)

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