Chinese Immigrants Get Sept 20 Court Date

The 200-plus Chinese arrested in Phnom Penh last month for entering the country without proper travel documents are scheduled to go to court Sept 20, court officials said Mon­day.

The Chinese were to be in court Friday but the case was delayed as court officials waited for the massive amount of paperwork generated by the case to be processed, according to Mong Mony Chakriya, deputy chief prosecutor.

Although illegal immigrants are routinely arrested in Cam­bodia, they generally are deported without a trial, police officials said last week. This is the first time illegal immigrants are being prosecuted, they said.

Contacted several times Mon­day, the Chi­nese Embassy would not comment on the Chinese nationals’ scheduled court ap­pear­ance.

An Asian diplomat said Mon­day the arrest of the Chinese immigrants was embarrassing for the Chinese Embassy, but should not have been a surprise.

“There have been illegal Chi­nese here for years. It is nothing new. The Chinese have never done anything about it,” the diplomat asserted.

Phnom Penh First Deputy Gov­er­nor Chea Sophara, who headed the arrest of the Chinese, said earlier this month that senior National Police officials and a top Cambodian diplomat are connected to the systematic human smuggling ring.

Tens of thousands of dollars monthly are made for personal gain in the trade, he and other officials said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Chum Sunary has said in recent days that he knows of no diplomats involved in trafficking Chinese nationals, but said Monday that the ministry is investigating claims by some officials that foreign service personnel are active in the trade.

He said the consular general at the Cambodian consulate in Ho Chi Minh City has been asked to “clarify” allegations that the more than 200 of the Chinese arrested Aug 19 passed through Vietnam and were escorted to Phnom Penh from the border.

The swoop of a Tuol Kok district house netted 222 Chinese and three Vietnamese, police have said.

Of those arrested, authorities determined that only three even carried passports.

Four of the Chinese escaped Aug 29, leaving 185 Chinese men, 33 Chinese women, two Vietnamese men and one Vietna­mese woman still in custody.

Chea Sophara, who said last week he would aggressively seek their trial, said Monday he was not aware of the court date—calling it an issue for the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Interior.

In an apparent softening of his stance on the Chinese immigrants’ case, Chea Sophara would not say whether the Chi­nese should face imprisonment.

“Terms and conditions of the immigration law may go to the court, but it is out of our control. We are waiting for [the court’s] decision,” Chea Sophara said.

The Chinese face three to six months in jail if found guilty of breaking Article 29 of the Cambodian immigration law that prohibits entering the country without authorization—a misdemeanor offense.

But court officials said Monday the Chinese may not get jail time at all. “As those immigrants were telling the truth, the court might alleviate their punishment,” Chief Prosecutor Kan Chheoun said.

Kan Chheoun also said the Chinese have already served time in detention. “From the arrest date until the trial date, is already one month,” he said.

Director of the Municipal Court Om Sarith will be the presiding judge, according to Kan Chheoun, while either he or Chin Chiva will act as the prosecutor.

The Chinese nationals will have no defense lawyer as their crime is a misdemeanor and guilt has already been established, Kan Chheoun said.



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