Funcinpec Secretary-General Nhiek Bun Chhay on Tuesday distanced himself from a former adviser who is implicated in Sunday’s drug raids, which police said netted three tons of chemicals in Phnom Penh and Kompong Speu province.
The chemicals which police found on Sunday in Kompong Speu’s Phnom Sruoch district were located on land belonging to an adviser to Nhiek Bun Chhay, Kompong Speu Governor Kang Heang said Tuesday. “According to the land title, this farm belongs to Chea Chung, who is Nhiek Bun Chhay’s adviser,” he said.
In a statement Tuesday evening, Nhiek Bun Chhay’s cabinet announced that Chea Chung had not been an adviser for over a year.
“The role as adviser…of Mr Chea Chung was ended automatically when HE Nhiek Bun Chhay ended his role as co-Minister of National Defense,” the statement said.
It also denied media reports that the land where the chemicals were found belonged to Nhiek Bun Chhay.
Of the 18 people arrested over the weekend, police said three were Chinese, one was Thai, while the rest were Cambodians.
Police on Tuesday described the 14 Cambodians as “victims” living in Treng Trayoeng commune’s Village 1 and hired as manual laborers.
Provincial Police Chief Keo Pisey said the 14 Cambodians all lived near the farm.
Rotha Vy, provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, said that according to the wife of one of the workers, a Chinese-Khmer interpreter sought on March 31 to hire 12 to 14 laborers to mix herbicides for $2.47 a day.
“On April 1 at 6:30 am they went to work inside the farm belonging to Chea Chung,” he said. “Then the police came and arrested all of them. Now they are in police custody.”
Kompong Speu Provincial Court Prosecutor Khut Sopheang said he expected police to send the suspects to court today and that no decision had yet been made on charges.