Phnom Penh Municipal Court opened a trial of a group of men arrested in January and accused of bombing a Phnom Penh monument, plotting to overthrow the government and placing explosives near government buildings.
The group is accused of exploding a bomb at the Vietnamese Friendship Monument in July 2007, as well as planting explosives outside two government buildings in January this year.
Three of the five arrested had opening statements Wednesday, with two more expected to see court Dec. 3, when the trial will resume.
The five suspects are Som Ek, who is 45, and Loek Bun Nhien, Hy Savoeung, Poa Vannara and Chea Kimyan, who are of similar age. They were arrested early last year after authorities found small explosive devices in front of the Ministry of Defense and the station for TV3.
They have officially been charged with planting bombs, mobilizing an illegal force and training of terrorists.
Som Ek addressed the court Wednesday, saying he led a “political organization” called the National Khmer Liberation Front, which has funding from overseas Cambodians but “is not a terrorist organization.”
“The purpose of the National Khmer Liberation Front is to attract support from the general public through education on land ownership rights, dignity, leadership, political ideology and opposition to land encroachment,” Som Ek said.
The group planned to form a political party and contest the next general election, he said.
“I had no principle to set up a terrorist organization, nor to plant a bomb in the city as charged,” he said.
Police say they found evidence of 30 explosives in Som Ek’s house at the time of his arrest.