A GOVERNMENT spokesman on Thursday accused an official from the Khmer People’s National Liberation Front (KNLF) – a group claiming to be Cambodia’s “government in exile” – of inventing alleged death threats as a “pretext” for claiming political asylum.
The comments were in reference to KNLF member Thuy Vy, who was arrested in Phnom Penh in May last year after attempting to arrange a press conference calling on the government to release political prisoners and pardon KNLF leader, Sam Serey, who was subsequently sentenced to 18 months imprisonment on incitement charges.
Upon Vy’s release on November 20, he was appointed KNLF spokesman, publicly stating his intention to register the group as an official political party in Cambodia.
However, on Wednesday, Vy told The Post that as he was preparing to register the party, he received a phone call from a “police official” threatening him.
“A man who said he was a police official told me to end my political career and stop talking about politics or he will eliminate me,” Vy claimed.
On December 5, Vy fled to Thailand, saying he will continue to pursue his political goal of registering the KNLF as an official political party, but he will only return to Cambodia once he no longer fears for his life, and Sam Serey is granted a political pardon.
“I will keep trying to register the party and I hope that the government will recognise the official party registration. I hope that government will soften its behaviour to solve the political crisis in the country and pardon political prisoners such as Sam Serey and Sam Rainsy, so they can resume their political careers constitutionally.
“Despite threats and rights deprivation forcing me to leave Cambodia, I will adhere to my stance promoting the implementation of the Paris Peace Agreement for democratisation, as well as calling for human rights and freedom in Cambodia,” he said.
The KNLF is a political group established in 2012 by opposition politician Sam Serey. It has previously claimed to be the government in exile of Cambodia, but Prime Minister Hun Sen has labelled the group a terrorist organisation.
However, government spokesman Phay Siphan questioned the veracity of Vy’s claim, accusing him of fabricating the story as a “pretext” for seeking political asylum abroad.
“I cannot accept his claims. I believe he is just using it as a way to seek political asylum in a third country. You should not use such things as the pretext to escape to a foreign country,” he said.
If Vy’s claims were true, said Siphan, he “should have filed complaint” to Cambodian authorities in order to begin an investigation.
Siphan’s sentiments were echoed by Interior Ministry spokesman General Khieu Sopheak, who claimed that Vy had invented the death threat in order to gain political sympathy, labelling it a “deception to seek asylum”.
KNLF President Sam Serey told The Post on Thursday that he remains concerned about Vy, but was hopeful that the political situation would improve.
“I worry about his [Vy’s] safety, but I hope that I and my members will be pardoned soon,” he said.