KNLF Plots Formation of Government in Exile

tmp_2740-1422975534-t-200065268Tuesday, 03 February 2015; News by Credit@Khmer Times/Ros Chanveasna

PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – A political group in self-imposed exile, the Khmer National Liberation Front (KNLF) is allegedly making preparations to establish a government in exile in Denmark.

The KNLF also has ties with a group known as the Tiger Liberation Movement, branded by the Cambodian government as a domestic terrorist organization, and is reportedly drafting a constitution and laws for its government in exile.

Sam Serey, the 35-year-old president of the KNLF, who currently lives in exile, said that he divides his time between Thailand and Denmark, where he was accepted as a refugee, along with his wife and eight-year-old daughter.

Speaking to Khmer Times via Skype from Denmark, he added that he and his wife are studying Danish.

“I fled to Thailand because the Cambodian authorities tried to arrest me. Our members have full trust and confidence and we always meet weekly to draft a new constitutional law.

“To date, we have drafted five chapters and 52 articles of our constitutional law. The main purpose of establishing a new constitution for the government in exile is to have law and order, democracy and a peaceful Cambodia for her people.

“We note that Cambodia’s constitution approved in 1993 was honored by the current Cambodian government. However, there is violent violation of human rights, land disputes, and arrest or killing of Cambodian people. This is why the current constitution is unlawful.”

Mr. Serey stressed that a further reason for having a government in exile is because of Vietnam’s refusal to respect Cambodia’s sovereignty.

He added, “We will demand all signatory parties of the Paris Peace Accord of 1991 to fully respect the spirit of this agreement.”

The constituent assembly group for drafting a new constitution for a government in exile based in Denmark comprises the KNLF, the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s (CNRP) delegates, representatives of land activists and other people outside Cambodia.

“The CNRP leaders know that their lawmakers and some activists support our work and affairs,” Mr. Serey claimed.

However, Yem Ponhearith, the spokesman of the CNRP, denied Serey’s assertions and rejected the notion that his party has got a delegate to join the KNLF to form a government in exile in Denmark.

“The CNRP do not do something which is illegal. We carry out our activities legally and follow the rule of law, democracy and non-violence,” he said.

Mr. Ponhearith, when commenting on the KNLF and its aspirations said: “That is their right. However, the CNRP does not support them [the KNLF].”

Referring to the CNRP’s spokesman’s comments, Mr. Serey said: “The CNRP lawmakers and their activist requested me not to reveal their names as it will have negative impacts and create security problems.”

Mr. Serey said that he respected the United Nations’ charter, and that the group carried out its activities through non-violence and in full respect of the UN’s charter, which ensures Cambodian people have the right to join in political activities. So, they are not against Cambodia’s laws, he said.

“This will ensure peace and respect for human rights. Cambodians have the right. I am not worried or afraid anymore because the government has been tracking me down since 1999. Even though they cooperated with the Thai authorities, I am still not afraid because my struggle is to provide justice to the people.”

The Liberation Front’s website features a photo of Mr. Serey shaking hands earlier this year with Denmark’s new Foreign Minister, Martin Lidegaard. A photo of Angkor Wat appears between them. It is unclear if it was photo-shopped in, or if the two men are carefully balancing the glass-covered framed photo.

Mr. Serey said Denmark’s government is supporting him with a fund of $3,500 per month for his efforts in establishing a government in exile.

The Danish Embassy in Bangkok, which handles Cambodian consular affairs, said they did not know anything about Mr. Serey’s comments.

In response, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, Mr. Phay Siphan, told Khmer Times that Sam Serey wants to destroy the constitutional will of the Cambodian people, and said that their activities showed that they are traitors.

Mr. Siphan reiterated that the organization is a terrorist group and accused any nations which supported the group of interfering in the internal affairs of the Cambodian government.

“They want to abolish the Cambodian government and constitution enacted in 1993. So, we cannot accept. I appeal to Denmark’s government to re-consider their position on a government in exile being located there, as Denmark is a member of the United Nations and Denmark’s government should not support this terrorist group,” Mr. Siphan said.

Sok Touch, a political analyst, said “The Kingdom of Cambodia is independent and sovereign and the government was elected by Cambodian voters.

“So, if other illegal groups act against the legal government, the government has the full right to complain to those countries that provide shelter to illegal groups out to overthrow the government.

“Secondly, the supreme law of the country is the Cambodian constitution of 1993. If a group wants to create a new constitutional law that abolishes that of 1993, it means that they wanted to stage a coup d’état. So, Mr. Hun Sen’s government must preserve Cambodia’s constitution of 1993 and must absolutely defend it under any circumstances.

“Thirdly, Cambodia’s government is based on a multi-party literal democracy and pluralism. If they want to take power, they should establish a political party to contest the elections.”

Mr. Touch added that they cannot create a front or a government in exile abroad for illegal activities.

For example “even though, the Shinawatra family have good relations with Mr. Hun Sen’s family, Cambodia’s government has no right to provide sanctuary to them [the Shinawatra family] to establish a government in exile to oppose the Thai military government,” Mr. Touch said.

Lieutenant General Kiet Chantharith, spokesman for the General Commissariat of National Police, said that the forming of a government in exile is against the 1993 constitution.

“We will keep monitoring them and take action when they commit illegal activities in the Kingdom,” Lieutenant General Chantharith said.

Am Sam Ath, a senior technical advisor for rights group Licadho said, “One country cannot have two governments. If the Kingdom has two governments, it means that there is secession in the country.”

He added that several of the group’s members were arrested in 2009 for allegedly planting bombs in Phnom Penh. However, according to Mr. Serey, his organization did not even exist until 2012.

“It’s not good to make an organization against the government because everyone needs peace,” Mr. Sam Ath said. “So if you want to win the elections, you need to vote. No one will join this organization because it’s illegal.”

According to the General Commissariat of National Police’s news website, the group plotted against the Cambodian government by creating an illegal armed force, sent intelligence agents to get secret information on key military sites, spread propaganda about the government and trained terrorist forces to secretly plant explosives near the Thai border.

It is also alleged that they created a network to pass information about the Kingdom to the organization’s headquarters in Denmark.

The President of the KNLF, Sam Serey, is also a member of the Khmer National Unity Front (KNUF), also known as the Tiger Liberation Movement or Tiger Head Movement.

KNUF is a Cambodia-based domestic terrorist group whose objective is to root out Vietnamese influence from within the Cambodian government. It was founded by Cambodian national Sok Ek and gets the “Tiger” nickname from its symbol.

KNUF gained notoriety for planting explosives in front of the Council of Ministers and the former 3 TV Channel, as well as carrying out armed kidnappings in 2007. Sok Ek fled after the Phnom Penh court issued warrants for his arrest in early January 2009.

In May 2013, Cambodian police, in cooperation with Thai Police, arrested four KNLF leaders: KNLF vice president Thach Kongphuong, 38, executive general director of KNLF Yorn Kimsrun, 28, and two KNLF activists Yorn Yoeub, 26, and Khem Ma, 29.

They were subsequently sentenced to jail terms ranging between seven and eight years.

The KNLF was officially created on Dec. 12, 2012 in Thailand by Sam Serey, also known as Sar Serey or Yan Yeap.

Last year, 10 members of this obscure political group, which the Cambodian government labels a terrorist organization, were arrested for distributing leaflets in Phnom Penh.

Danish Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard did not reply by press time on whether the country will provide a home to a government in exile.


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