Court Charges 911 Paratrooper Who Took Crystal Meth on Duty

A member of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces’ (RCAF) elite Brigade 911 paratrooper unit Thursday confessed to using methamphetamine while on duty as he stood trial on drug charges at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

Oum Chanthou, 28, an officer with the unit, was arrested in October after police found three packages of methamphetamine on him during a search in Phnom Penh’s Pur Senchey district.

“The court has charged [Mr. Chanthou] with storing, trafficking and distributing drugs,” Presiding Judge Sin Visal said Thursday.

Mr. Chanthou told the court that he regularly took methamphetamines into the Brigade 911 base in Choam Chao commune but insisted they were for personal use only, and not for sale.

The suspect said that he smoked the potent drug to heighten his senses while on patrol late at night.

“I used to use the drug for about one year,” he said. “I used it to prevent me from becoming sleepy while working at night.”

Deputy prosecutor Keu Bunnara, however, rejected Mr. Chanthou’s claim that the ice was for personal use, suggesting that he was trafficking the drugs inside the grounds of the elite RCAF unit.

“You intended to traffic and distribute to other people,” Mr. Bunnara told the defendant in court Thursday. “The court still charges you with storing, trafficking and distributing the drugs,” which carries a penalty of between two and five years in prison.

Mr. Chanthou was stopped at a police checkpoint on his way to the paratrooper base after purchasing the drugs in Sen Sok district’s Toek Thla commune last year, the court heard.

The police search turned up the three packages of methamphetamine—of which the total weight is unknown—inside Mr. Chanthou’s mobile phone case.

Ou Vuth, Mr. Chanthou’s defense lawyer, maintained that his client was a user,  not a dealer.

“I request that the court downgrade the charges to using and drop the other charges,” he said.

Earlier this year Brigade 911 was involved in violently quashing garment worker protests in Phnom Penh’s Pur Senchey district.

Contacted Thursday, Defense Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Chhum Sucheat said he “did not know the case and could not say anything unless I know the case.”

Chap Pheakdey, Commander of the 911 unit, could not be reached for comment.

Judge Visal said he would hand down a verdict on February 28.

(Additional reporting by Matt Blomberg)

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