Petition Calls for Release of Men Arrested in K Speu Drug Raid

phnom sruoch district, Kom­pong Speu province – Families of 14 men arrested during a high-profile raid on a drugs laboratory in Kom­pong Speu province on April 1 sent a petition to provincial Governor Kang Heang Monday, demanding the men be released immediately.

Police arrested 18 people—14 Cam­bodians, three Chinese nationals and one Thai national—during raids in Phnom Penh and Phnom Sruoch district’s Treng Trayoeng commune, confiscating 3 tons of chemicals that authorities say were to be used to manufacture methamphetamines.

No actual drugs were found during the raid, and eight wives and one sister of the 14 Cambodians arrested maintained the men’s innocence in interviews Tues­day. The suspects had only been at the site for one hour before the po­lice raided, and were hired on the un­derstanding they would be spraying chemicals on the land to kill grass, the women claimed.

“All the workers did not know what kind of chemicals they were,” said Khut Chan Thoeun, 34, whose husband, Tim Mean, 35, was among the men arrested. “If they knew the chemicals were for drugs, they would not have done the work,” she said.

Or Heim, 42, whose husband Sorn Suon was also arrested, claimed that all the men were SRP supporters.

Provincial Governor Kang He­ang said Tuesday by telephone that he received the petition from the families and has asked the court to consider releasing the men, whom he believes to be innocent also.

“They did not know that the chemicals were illegal,” he said, adding that he cannot force the court to release the men. “The courts are independent so they need to follow their own rules,” he added.

Khut Sopheang, the provincial court prosecutor handling the case, declined to comment on the 14 Cam­bodian suspects but said the foreign suspects had been transferred to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

Roth Thavy, provincial coordinator for Adhoc, said he does not expect the men to get out of jail anytime soon. “This case is being handled by the court, so we need to find them a lawyer,” he said.

Police were keeping clear of where chemicals are being stored at the raided farm on Tuesday. Forty toxic smelling plastic containers, discarded plastic gloves and more than one thousand empty bottles marked chloroform and diethyl ether lined the outside of a house, with cows grazing a few meters away. Inside the house were bags of unmarked powder and more containers filled with chemicals.

Meas Vyrith, laboratory director for the National Authority for Combating Drugs, said that chloroform and diethyl ether are used in one of the steps to make methamphetamines.

Suon Vuthy, 32, a district police officer guarding the house, said that no one suspected that the farm was a front for drugs as there were cows grazing on the property.


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