Drug Official Charged With Trafficking

A high-ranking anti-drug official, a Phnom Penh municipal court clerk and two others have been charged with drug trafficking, police and court officials said Thursday.

The arrest of Colonel Sok Sophak of the National Authority for Combating Drugs marks the first time such a high-ranking anti-drug official has been charged, officials said.

Colonel Sok Sophak, 48, is the personal aide to NACD head Em Sam An and deputy director of investigation and drug control at the NACD. One source said he heads the NACD’s intelligence unit.

Police and court officials said Thursday Sok Sophak and two other men were arrested Monday night at the Pacific Hotel in Phnom Penh. Police allegedly confiscated 5,000 amphetamine pills.

Court officials identified the other arrestees as Ching Phalla, 29, a clerk for Deputy Director of Municipal Court Nop Sophon, and Hun Sambath, 28, a construction supervisor for the Amata Com­pany.

Tith Sothy, director of the Kom­pong Cham court, said a fourth suspect, Lam Try, 24, was arrested Tuesday in Kompong Cham, where all four appeared in court. Tith Sothy said the case was moved to Kompong Cham court because one of the suspects worked in the Phnom Penh court system.

On Wednesday, police said Lam Try led them to a location in Phnom Penh where they discovered additional drugs, bringing the total confiscated to more than 14,000 amphetamine and codeine pills.

Ministry of Interior officials said that, in the wake of the arrests, Em Sam An was summoned to a meeting Tuesday with Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng.

Sar Kheng declined to comment on the meeting.

In June of 2000, a Kampot police official arrested on drug charges accused Em Sam An and three other top officials of taking bribes in connection with large marijuana plantations in Kampot province. All four officials denied any involvement in the illegal drug business. No one has ever been charged in that case.

Tith Sothy said police Monday confiscated three pistols and four AK-47 assault rifles, as well as two cars and two telephones.

Police believe the drug operation has existed for some time, and smugglers were possibly bringing drugs from Laos through Kompong Cham to Phnom Penh and on to Vietnam.

Tith Sothy said the men are charged with drug smuggling, which carries potential sentences of from five to 15 years. If convicted, Sok Sophak could face more serious penalities as an anti-drug official, Tith Sothy added.

.            One senior anti-drug police official at the Ministry of the Interior, who did not want to be identified, said the pills confiscated were worth $5 to $15 each.

Police have suspected Sok Sophak of involvement in drug smuggling “for a long time,” the official said.


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