Court of Appeal Upholds Three Drug Convictions

The Court of Appeal on Thursday upheld the convictions and lengthy sentences of three people involved in separate cases of possession or trafficking of illegal drugs, including a former Phnom Penh anti-drug police chief currently serving 12 years in prison.

In 2011, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced 42-year-old Touch Muysor to 12 years in Prey Sar prison and fined him 40 million riel, or about $10,000, after he was arrested in 2005 for possessing 8,000 methamphetamine pills and taking bribes from drug dealers to allow them to walk free.

Mr. Muysor was not present in court due to sickness, but his lawyer, Cheat Sokha, said that the verdict was unacceptable because he had simply stored the drugs at his office on the orders of his superiors after they were seized during a drug bust.

“We cannot accept the verdict, but I am not sure if we will appeal [to the Supreme Court] or not because I have to wait and discuss it with him,” Ms. Sokha said.

In the second case, the Appeal Court upheld the 2011 verdict handed down to a Filipino woman, 42-year-old Cadalso Vilma Cristales, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison and fined 30 million riel, or about $7,500, for smuggling 72 grams of cocaine from Colombia.

“The judges uphold the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s verdict because we thought that the verdict was correct,” said Presiding Judge Oum Sarith.

The defendant confessed during the hearing to smuggling the drugs into Phnom Penh International Airport by swallowing some and concealing parcels in other parts of her body, but said she had been hired as a drug mule by two Malaysian women, whose whereabouts have never been determined.

The third drug case saw the Court of Appeal uphold the 20-year prison sentence given to 40-year-old Nepalese woman Tiri Maya Tamong for smuggling almost 8 kg of cannabis resin, “hashish,” from India to Phnom Penh International Airport in 2011.

Ms. Tamong smuggled hashish on two occasions and was arrested as a result of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration investigation, which alerted Cambodian authorities to the woman’s activities.

She confessed to the court that she brought the drugs into Cambodia, but she too claimed she was a mule who was paid $500 in advance and was promised a further $1,000.

Tith Savuthy, the lawyer for both Ms. Cadalso and Ms. Tamong, said that her clients had filed appeals not to protest their innocence but because she believed their sentences were too harsh.

“These women are poor and they are widows and I think that the Appeal Court should have reduced their sentences,” Ms. Savuthy said, adding that she was not yet sure whether they would take their appeals to the Supreme Court.

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