‘Okhna’ Admits to Drug Use, Denies Dealing

Well-known businessman Tan Seng Hak went on trial Friday at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for drug trafficking and conspiracy to traffic drugs following the discovery of a combined 1.5 kg of cocaine, methamphetamine and another, still un­identified, white powder at his luxury home in Sen Sok district in November.

Holder of the once prestigious title “Okhna,” which is bestowed upon businesspeople who contribute a substantial sum of money to the government, Mr. Seng Hak was arrested with 11 other suspects during the raid on his home by anti-narcotics police officers.

Addressing the court, Mr. Seng Hak admitted that he was a drug user, but denied the charg­es against him and accused police of framing him by planting the drugs that were found during the search of his villa.

“I confess that I have used [drugs]. But I do not accept that I trafficked drugs,” he told the court. “The police set me up by placing the drugs inside my house and then forcing me to give my thumbprint [signature] in order to confess that I had smuggled drugs.”

“I signed the [confession] so my children would be released,” he said, referring to the initial arrest of his 22-year-old son during the drug bust.

Only four of the original 11 other people detained at the villa stood trial on Friday: Sin Chan Reasmey, Sieng Chanthy, Kong Rayuth and So Riya, all of whom attested in court to Mr. Seng Hak’s claim that they were framed by police, and that police were the only people with drugs on the day of the arrests.

Mr. Rayuth also accused the police of torturing him to extract a guilty confession, removing his shirt in the courthouse to show what he said was an injured elbow sustained during police interrogation.

“They used a small iron bar to hit my elbow and they also used a plastic bag to cover my head to force me to confess that I conspired to smuggle drugs,” he told the court.

Taking the witness stand, Lieutenant Colonel Soeung Nol, unit chief at the Interior Ministry’s anti-narcotics department, denied that his officers had been the source of the drugs uncovered at Mr. Seng Hak’s home.

Lt. Col. Nol said that police also discovered paraphernalia for consuming drugs, three weighing scales and unauthorized ammunition along with the 189 grams of crystal methamphetamine, 116 grams of cocaine and 900 grams of a still unidentified white powder that is believed to be a narcotic.

At the time of the raid, police said that they had staked out the businessman’s house for two weeks following a tip-off that drug dealers were operating on the premises.

Mr. Seng Hak is a former adviser to aging Senate and CPP President Chea Sim. He was previously arrested and jailed in 2007 for his involvement in illegal land sales.

The trial will resume on September 16.

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