A South African man accused of entering the country with more than half a kilogram of cocaine in thumb-sized pellets in his stomach was charged with drug trafficking on Wednesday at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court and sent to Prey Sar prison, officials said on Thursday.
Jacobus Dawie Botha, 30, was arrested upon arrival last Friday at Phnom Penh International Airport.
He had traveled from Brazil, with stops in Dubai and Bangkok.
Authorities recovered 587 grams of cocaine from 42 plastic pellets Mr. Botha had swallowed, Sary Botsatya, a bureau chief at the Interior Ministry’s anti-drug department, said on Thursday.
Mr. Botha became constipated and ill after swallowing the pellets and was hospitalized overnight on Sunday, Mr. Botsatya said.
The drug mule’s hospitalization prevented police from keeping the case secret, so no other arrests were made despite a weeklong investigation, Mr. Botsatya said.
Police believe the drugs were likely destined for Thailand via an overland route.
The trafficking charge carries a penalty of up to life in prison and a fine of up to 100 million riel, or about $25,000.