Chinese Tourists Arrested for Flying Drone Near Royal Palace

Two Chinese tourists were arrested in Phnom Penh on Saturday for using a drone to film the Royal Palace, but were released with a warning Sunday, according to a senior police official.

Their arrest comes less than two weeks after a pair of foreign filmmakers were briefly detained for flying a drone near Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house, and follows a ban on unauthorized drone use that City Hall announced in February.

Deputy National Police Commissioner Chhay Sinarith said Sunday that Wang Ming Lei and Peng Zhe Liang, both 24, were arrested at about 7:30 a.m. on Saturday by Daun Penh district police, who spotted them operating a drone near the Royal Palace. They were then sent to the Interior Ministry for questioning that morning, he said.

“They said they were tourists. They said they did not know that it was a restricted area,” Lieutenant General Sinarith said, adding that officials did not believe their answers, and so contacted the Chinese government and Chinese Embassy in Phnom Penh.

“We made contact with China and the Chinese Embassy to see whether they were tourists or not. The Chinese Embassy confirmed that they were tourists,” he said.

Lt. Gen. Sinarith said the men were released Sunday after promising not to break the drone ban again. “After we had educated and warned them, we ordered them to sign a contract to never do it again,” he said.

“They were freed and will fly to their homeland tonight,” he added.

City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche confirmed that the tourists had not sought permission to fly their drone and warned people to take the ban seriously. “All people, including foreigners, must abide by City Hall’s statement,” he said.

Cheng Hong Bo, spokesman for the Chinese Embassy, declined to comment.

On June 23, police arrested an American filmmaker and a French freelance drone operator when their drone passed in front of Mr. Hun Sen’s house. They were briefly held at the municipal police headquarters, and were also let off after signing a contract with authorities.

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