Court Stands Firm on Drug-Smuggling Teen

The Appeals Court Monday upheld the municipal court’s drug smuggling conviction and 13-year prison sentence against Australian teenager Gordon Vuong.

Vuong, who was ab­sent from the courthouse, was 16 years old when he was arrested at Phnom Penh International Airport in January 2005 with 2.1 kg of heroin taped to his chest and stomach.

In a proceeding that took approximately 10 minutes, Judge Saly Theara read the court’s decision that will keep the teenager in prison until his 29th birthday.

Vuong’s mother traveled from Australia to be present during the ruling. A spokeswoman for the family, who wished not to be named, said that they disagreed with the court’s decision to uphold the May 2005 municipal court verdict.

“We are disappointed with the decision,” the spokeswoman said.

“Our argument would be that be­cause he was a juvenile…that should have been taken into consideration,” she said. “There will be an appeal.”

Vuong’s lawyer Suy Chhunhak confirmed that they would be appealing the decision today.

“Gordon Vuong’s mother also asked me to complain to the Su­preme Court. It is our right,” he said.

Vuong said in an interview last year that he was blackmailed into joining the heroin smuggling ring after a group of men stole his passport while he was in Hong Kong.

Maintaining that he had no choice, Vuong said he caught a flight to Phnom Penh where he met up with Cambodian-Australian Yen Ka­rat, 26, and Cambodian national Ek Sam Oeun, 47. Both were sentenced to 18 years and 10 years respectively for their part in the ring.

Australian Ambassador Lisa Fili­peto said that counselor officers in Phnom Penh and Australia will con­tin­ue to provide services to the teen­ager and his family for the duration of his sentence.





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