Free Vietnam Official Allegedly Seized in Pailin

pailin – Friends still stop by to see him, but all that’s left of Vu Duc Binh are a few work shirts, a stove and an empty bed.

A reputed leader of the anti-communist Free Vietnam movement that at one time had de­signs on overthrowing Hanoi, Vu Duc Binh last week allegedly was yanked from his home in Pailin by Phnom Penh police, according to several witnesses here.

Not only was he taken from his home, witnesses said Saturday, but Vu Duc Binh hasn’t been seen since. For days after he was taken, his mother could not stop crying.

“She could not say anything to the police, because she is Vietna­mese and does not speak Khmer,” said her neighbor, Teo Nheip. The former Khmer Rouge guard speculated Vu Duc Binh may have been singled out be­cause police knew he kept Free Vietnam’s current list of 100 or so members.

Both National Police Director General Hok Lundy and Mok Chito, the chief of Phnom Penh police for foreigners, who was suspended in December, firmly denied the incident happened.

As villagers tell it, a man came to the door around Aug 1 and asked if Vu Duc Binh, a concrete worker, could find someone to build a table. His mother said he was working up the hill, and the next thing she knew, he was brought to her in handcuffs to say good-bye, Teo Nheip said.

That evening the mother went to plead with police at the station, but it was too late. He already had been taken to Battam­bang town, police told her.

One local officer who did not wish to reveal his name said Phnom Penh police arrived either July 31 or August 1. “One of them said to me, ‘I need to get this man. Can you take me to this man? He is an anti-communist.’”

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak seemed familiar with the case, but did not deny nor confirm the arrest.

In general, he said: “It’s Cambodian law that no one can use Cambodian territory to fight against any legitimate government. If they use Cambodian territory, we arrest them.”

One local officer who did not wish to reveal his name said Phnom Penh police arrived either July 31 or Aug 1. “One of them said to me, ‘I need to get this man. Can you take me to this man? He is an anti-communist.’”

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak seemed familiar with the case, but did not deny nor confirm the arrest.

In general, he said, “It’s Cam­bodian law that no one can use Cambodian territory to fight against any legitimate government. If they use Cambodian territory, we arrest them.”

Khieu Sopheak added that Cambodia is happy to return “bad people” to Vietnam. “We don’t allow any sanctuary for them on Cambodian soil.”

Hok Lundy said flatly: “I have no involvement in arresting anyone from Free Vietnam. It is only a rumor.”

If he was in fact taken from Pailin, Vu Duc Binh likely would have been “extradited” to Viet­nam, according to one of his associates, local carpenter Duong Van Tao.

Duong Van Tao described Vu Duc Binh as Free Vietnam’s “politics man” who frequently recruited new members and may once have planned to bomb the Viet­namese consulate in Battam­bang.

“There will be big problems for Vu Duc Binh if he goes back,” Duong Van Tao said, suggesting that he could do up to 20 years in prison.

The Free Vietnam movement first was made public in 1995, when the government attempted to deport six US and 32 Viet­namese alleged to be members.

Among the deportees was Ly Chan Dara, whom Hok Lundy in 1996 characterized as the movement’s finance director and deputy commander.

Human rights organizations decried the deportations, be­cause Cambodia’s signature on the UN International Convention of Human Rights requires it to protect foreign nationals from political persecution in their home countries.

A spokesman for the UN High Commission for Human Rights on Monday said that if there is a “well-founded fear of persecution, then Cambodia should not force them to be expelled.”

In every case, he stressed, lawmakers first should consider whether any domestic laws were broken—in Vu Duc Binh’s case, whether he violated conspiracy laws. But he noted that “every person deserves fair consideration before being deported.”

Vietnamese in Pailin said Free Vietnam originally was stationed in Battambang but moved to Pailin and then the Cambodian-Thai border when members feared police action.

“We brought Vu Duc Binh here [to the border] where he would be safe, but he didn’t want to listen to us, so he went back to Pailin,” Vietnamese associate Nguyen Thanh Quang said Saturday from near the Thai-Cambodian border .

Neighbor Teo Nheip recalled that when Vu Duc Binh’s mother returned from the police station the night of his reported arrest, she hopped a taxi in a desperate attempt to find her son.

As he pointed eastward toward Vietnam, Teo Nheip wondered if his neighbor will see her son again—or whether she will have to return to an “empty house and a village full of unanswered questions.”

(Additional reporting by Saing Soenthrith, Aira Vehaskari and Phann Ana)

 

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