Activist’s Arrest Said Linked to Vietnam Trip

Just weeks before suspected Free Vietnam ringleader Vu Duc Binh allegedly was seized from his Pailin home by police, Cam­bo­dian defense leaders traveled to Vietnam and discussed “deterring the growth of anti-Viet­namese groups,” sources said.

On a July 20-26 trip to Vietnam and Laos led by RCAF Com­mander-in-Chief Ke Kim Yan, officials emphasized the growing cooperation between Cambodian and Vietnamese security agencies, Defense co-Minister Prince Sisowath Sirirath said.

He said Cambodia and Viet­nam months ago forged an agreement to “capture and si­lence” anti-Vietnam operatives in Cambodia and hinted that this arrangement again was discussed at the July meeting.

Another Defense Ministry source who asked not to be named said Tuesday that the agreement between the two countries is not official. But at the meeting, “the government of Cambodia declared that we would not go against Vietnam by providing sanctuary or support to the anti-Vietnam movement,” he said.

The director of the Defense Ministry’s information department, Neang Phat, denied that the recent talks in Vietnam touched on the issue of anti-government groups. “We discussed the growing friendship between our countries…but not any anti-Vietnam groups,” he said.

Over the last four years, the government arrested and at­tempted to deport several US and Vietnamese nationals who belonged to Free Vietnam, also known as “Vietnam Tu Do.” The group, once thought to be plotting to overthrow Hanoi, could have up to 100 members stationed near the Thai-Cambodian border village of Ta Prom, sources there said.

While several witnesses in Pailin said Vu Duc Binh was arrested, handcuffed and taken away by Phnom Penh police on or around Aug 1, National Police Director General Hok Lundy flatly denied their reports.

Close associates of the Viet­namese carpenter said he likely was sent back to Vietnam, a move that would concern human rights groups.

Rosemary McCreery, director of the UN High Commission for Human Rights, said Tuesday that the UN’s special human rights envoy to Cambodia included past Free Vietnam deportations in an April report because of the risk they pose to political freedom.

She said the cases are difficult to verify because deportees often go missing before their citizenship status is determined. Re­gardless, she said they should not be sent to their country if they face danger there.

“If these allegations are true, the Vietnamese have the same rights of political assembly as any other person: They should not be deported to a country where their life or freedom will be in jeopardy,” McCreery said.

Meanwhile, defense officials denied any knowledge of Vu Duc Binh’s arrest. But they said capturing Free Vietnam members remains high on the Cambodian government’s agenda.

Vietnamese Embassy press attache Chu Loc also said Tues­day that officials there know nothing of Vu Duc Binh’s arrest. (Ad­­­ditional reporting by Im Sophea)

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