Princess Takes Umbrage at Accusations of Ties to Drugs

Culture Minister Princess Bopha Devi is shocked and outraged over a recent editorial in the Bangkok Post newspaper that accused her and other high-ranking Cambodian officials of being involved in drug trafficking.

“Her Royal Highness totally refutes the malicious and un­founded allegations stated therein and have instructed her lawyers to look into the matter,” said a press statement released by the princess on Thursday.

The editorial that prompted the damage control efforts by “the gracious Princess Bopha Devi” cited anti-drug experts who reported that “The Phnom Penh drug squad has directly accused the princess of involvement in a ring trafficking heroin to Viet­nam.” It was printed in the July 23 edition of the paper, one of Thailand’s most influential.

The princess, who is the daughter of King Norodom Siha­nouk and the younger sister of Prince Norodom Ranariddh, is the only government official named in the editorial who is directly accused of drug trafficking. She is a prominent member of Funcinpec, the party founded 20 years ago by her father and now managed by her brother.

The editorial said that no action has been taken against her, and “that can only mean the drug trade has permeated and corrupted the highest levels of Cambo­dian society.” It expressed alarm that Cambodia could be on par with Burma as a state whose elite have deep ties with international narcotic traffickers.

“The country is awash in a sea of corruption,” the Bangkok Post editorial said. “Hun Sen and associates have shown little interest in fighting the drug traffickers who threaten their country and their neighbors.”

Minister of Information Lu Laysreng, a member of the Funcinpec steering committee, said Sunday his ministry is not planning to take any action against the Bangkok Post, al­though he expects the princess



to file a complaint on her own.  “The story is flatly wrong.”

Prince Sisowath Sirivudh Pa­na­ra, secretary of state at the Cul­ture Min­istry and relative of the prin­cess, said the editorial is pre­post­erous and he believes the Cam­bodian people will not believe the accusation against the prin­cess.

“Can you imagine accusing the daughter of the King of such a thing?” he asked Sunday. “She is a very nice person. Maybe this is part of a political campaign against her or the royal family.”

He also said the princess was very upset over the accusation and is now ill because of it.

“This is the first time in her life that she has had to deal with this sort of thing,” Prince Panara said. “I would be sick too if someone accused me like this.”

Tol Lah, Funcinpec’s secretary-general, said he was shocked when he heard about the editorial.

“As far as we know, she is well respected and has never been involved in drug trafficking,” he said. “This is really damaging to her name and her honor.”

Because of Cambodia’s proximity to Burma and Laos and its  undertrained police force, the country has become a main transit point for the international drug trade, enforcement officials have said.

An Interior Ministry anti-drugs official said Sunday that the rumor of Bopha Devi’s involvement with drug trafficking stemmed from a May 1999 edition of the Obeservatoire Geopolitique Des Drogues (The Geopolitical Drug Dispatch).

However, the Interior official said there is no evidence to support the accusations. “So far I have never got information that [Princess Bopha Devi] was involved with drug trafficking. I don’t know where they got that information,” said the official, who asked not to be named.

Skadavy Mathly Roun, former deputy secretary general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, said Sunday that the information implicating Princess Bopha Devi is hard to believe.

“I was really surprised to see this article. I don’t think it’s true,” said Skadavy Mathly Roun.

The article in Obeservatoire Geopolitique Des Drogues—described Sunday by one foreign policeman as a drug-trade watchdog publication—entitled “Cambodia: Something Rotten in the state of Kampuchea,” begins by claiming that people from all levels of society including princes, former Khmer Rouge, police and army officials are taking part in drug trafficking.

The article then refers to a report published in June 1995 by “the Cambodian drug squad” entitled “On Bopha Devi Case: Drug Trafficking.”

“The princess’ supplier went to her home in person to ensure that 10 kilograms of heroin, originally from Laos, had indeed been sent on to Vietnam,” the French publication quotes the drug police report as stating. It is not made clear in the report what “the Cambodian drug squad” is.

The publication also labels an economic adviser to Hun Sen as a leading drug trafficker and implies that a former governor of Koh Kong province was overseeing drug production there. A floating laboratory producing heroin was also anchored off the province’s coast, the publication reports a French police source as saying.

A unnamed anti-narcotics police chief is also referred to in the publication as operating three gangs of Ghanaian, Taiwanese and American/European nationals who peddle heroin and amphetamines to expatriates and tourists in Cambodia.



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