Alleged Drug-Trafficking Leader Dies After Prison Stint

The alleged leader of a major drug-trafficking ring died in a Phnom Penh hospital on Tuesday, just three months after his imprisonment, officials said on Wednesday.

Syla Loy was arrested, charged and provisionally detained in May after drug raids in Phnom Penh and Ratanakkiri province netted more than 60 kg of heroin and crystal methamphetamine. Along with alleged accomplice Loung Sopha, he faced 20 years to life in prison and fines of up to $25,000 if convicted.

But Syla Loy died from encephalitis and HIV at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital on Tuesday afternoon, one day after being transferred from Prey Sar prison, according to Sorn Keo, spokesman and deputy director of the government’s general department of prisons’ correctional department.

Mr. Keo said his family had already retrieved the body and held a traditional funeral for Syla Loy, who was an oknha—an honorific bestowed on businesspeople who make donations of $500,000 to the state.

Mr. Keo said he was not sure of the prisoner’s health conditions leading up to his transfer to the hospital, as he was still waiting to receive a report.

“In general, at the prison, if there are issues related to health, they would be sent out,” he said.

Officials at Prey Sar prison, including the director, could not be reached for comment.

Separately, eight members of a transnational drug operation suspected of smuggling drugs out of Cambodia into Vietnam were arrested in Ho Chi Minh City on Wednesday, according to a media report.

The outfit allegedly trafficked ecstasy, methamphetamines and other stimulants from Cambodia, Vietnamese news outlet Tuoi Tre News said.

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