Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday denied reports published last week that linked Cambodia to an alleged conspiracy to smuggle 200 shoulder-fired, heat-seeking missiles from China to the US.
“I don’t know whether any weapons came from China but I can say Cambodia is a clean country,” Hun Sen told reporters at the Council of Ministers.
“Cambodia could be a point of transit for drug trafficking but not weapons. That is an exaggeration,” Hun Sen said, adding that Cambodia was perhaps mistakenly implicated in the conspiracy.
“In the past there was transit of weapons from Cambodia to Sri Lanka, to the Karen opposition in Burma, and to some islands in the Philippines. That is possible,” Hun Sen said.
“But while Cambodia is at peace, we are destroying weapons…. There is no reason that weapons could have reached the US,” he said.
A US citizen of Chinese origin pleaded guilty last week at a federal court in Los Angeles, California, to charges that he and a co-defendant conspired to import 200 Chinese-made Qianwei-2 missiles to the US via Cambodia.
A statement obtained Friday, which the US prosecution team read into the court record at the hearing, said that between Sept 2, 2004, and Aug 19, 2005, Californians Chao Tung Wu, 51, and Yi Qing Chen, 41, had at least 17 communications with a US Federal Bureau of Investigation agent regarding the missiles.
According to the statement, Wu told the FBI agent that Chen had met with a Chinese general named Wang and that, in order to facilitate the shipment, “the daughter of the president of Cambodia would receive a $2 million bribe for facilitating the weapons deal by posing as the purported purchaser.”
Cambodia does not have a president.
In June 2005, Wu told the agent that Chen had requested that a $1 million payment be wired to the Cambodian woman.
However, a week later the defendants switched the third country from Cambodia to Paraguay, claiming that Paraguay had agreed to act as the purported missile purchaser, the statement said.
Wu is scheduled to be sentenced July 31, and Chen’s trial is set for June 27. The pair are facing sentences of 25 years to life in prison.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Sunday that the claims read out in court were “unbelievable.”
“We don’t have a president here,” Khieu Sopheak said, adding that he suspected the indicted pair had fabricated the story.
While drugs may be in transit through Cambodia, weapons were another matter, he said. “A kilo of heroin is very small but 200 missiles? Come on,” he added.