10/24/2014, 00.00
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Phnom Penh, police arrest 10 activists for attempting to overthrow government

They are members of the Khmer National Liberation Front (KNLF) movement based in Denmark and branded as "terrorist" by the government. According to the charges, they set up an armed unit to overthrow the government and the prime minister. Pro human rights activists speak of spurious and unfounded arrests.

Phnom Penh (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Cambodian police have arrested 10 people accused of having organized an armed unit with the aim of overthrowing the legitimate government of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

According to the police spokesman the detainees would be part of the Khmer National Liberation Front (KNLF), a movement based in Denmark and branded as "terrorist" by the authorities in Phnom Penh. They were arrested the night between October 22 and 23 and charged with "conspiracy" to overthrow the government.

The arrests have drawn the criticism of human rights movements and activists, because they violate the rights of people and there is no concrete motive to brand the KNLF a subversive movement.

National Police spokesman Kirt Chantharith said that the "movement has intended to topple the government by establishing illegal armed forces, spying on military secrets, distributing anti-government leaflets, training terrorists and conducting training along the Cambodian-Thai border". Police also confiscated "evidence" that include books critical of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The 10, most of whom are farmers, intended to promote peaceful demonstrations outside the Vietnamese embassy in Phnom Penh, to ask the Hanoi government to comply with the Paris agreements. Signed in 1973, the agreements - which marked the end of the Vietnam War - provide for the recognition of the fundamental rights of Cambodians, including sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity.

Even today, many Cambodians complain that Vietnam has too much influence on internal affairs.

The KNLF says on its website that the two-year-old group consists of Cambodian nationalists and democrats who work with democratic countries and the United Nations to achieve peace, freedom and democracy. It says it is working to change the government through non-violent means.  Its mission is to seek justice for and free Cambodians from Vietnamese neocolonialism and the "dictatorship regime".

In April a Cambodian court sentenced 13 members of the KNLF from five to nine years in prison, having pleaded guilty to conspiracy to overthrow the government. The six tried in absentia included Sam Serey, founder of the group. Pro human rights activists have branded the ruling as politically motivated, baseless, and alleged the use of torture to extract confessions.


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