Largest-Ever Meth Case Goes to Trial; Suspects Claim Innocence

A young woman accused in the largest methamphetamine seizure in Cambodian history stood trial at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday, retracting her initial admission of guilt and pinning the blame on her former lover.

Phal Rany, 24, was one of four suspects—including two Chinese nationals—charged over a June 2015 drug bust that netted nearly 55 kg of meth and heroin. On the stand on Wednesday, she said she had falsely implicated herself and her boyfriend Ly Soeu, 43, in revenge for his having an affair, and that neither of them were involved with the drugs.

Chinese nationals Ly Yong, left, and Deng Yuan Ping, leave the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Chinese nationals Ly Yong, left, and Deng Yuan Ping, leave the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

“This case does not involve Ly Soeu,” Ms. Rany said. “I don’t know about the drugs.”

“When I previously accused him, it was because I was angry at him for contacting another girl,” she said, explaining that the relationship later became sexual.

The couple and the two Chinese men—Deng Yuan Ping, 53, and Ly Yong, 43—stand accused of smuggling 38 kg of crystal meth, 16 kg of meth tablets and 345 grams of

heroin into Cambodia from the “Golden Triangle,” a mountainous drug-producing region where Thailand, Laos and Burma intersect. The drugs were to be sold in Cambodia and Taiwan, according to police.

In court on Wednesday, Ms. Rany said that she too was having an affair before her arrest, and said the drugs must have belonged to her lover, a rubber farmer named Tam Nha.

She said she had met Mr. Nha when he came to eat at the restaurant she and Mr. Soeu owned in Phnom Penh’s Chamkar Mon district. After Mr. Soeu was sent to prison in March 2015 on separate drug charges, she said, Mr. Nha offered her $500 per month and an apartment in Russei Keo district—the same apartment where police found a safe containing the roughly $3 million worth of drugs and arrested Ms. Rany.

The defendant said she stayed in the apartment a few times, but never even saw the safe. She added that four notebooks suspected to contain coded records of past drug sales merely held recipes for her restaurant.

Mr. Soeu testified on Wednesday that Ms. Rany’s account was true, and that the Chinese suspects had merely been regular patrons of their restaurant.

He also said Mr. Deng had bumped into Ms. Rany while she was in Stung Treng to visit him in prison, and so also decided to visit him out of kindness—and not, as police have suggested, to discuss the drugs.

According to San Sothy, deputy director of the Interior Ministry’s anti-drug department, Mr. Soeu had been under surveillance before and during his time in prison. When Mr. Soeu was initially arrested in March 2015, he said, an undercover operative named only as Agent 5502 was also “arrested” and sent to prison posing as a fellow drug trafficker.

“While he was detained in the provincial prison with Ly Soeu…Agent 5502 heard Mr. Soeu call and tell [Ms. Rany], ‘Please, move the safe from the rental house,’” Major General Sothy said.

He said Agent 5502 had been “released” shortly after the call and witnessed Ms. Rany moving the safe from the couple’s shared residence in Russei Keo to the apartment where the drugs were found.

The trial is scheduled to resume on July 25.

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Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly named anti-drug department deputy director San Sothy as San Vuthy.

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