Former F’pec Adviser Charged Over Drug Case

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Aug 21 charged a former adviser to Funcinpec Secre­tary-General Nhiek Bun Chhay for his alleged involvement in a massive Kompong Speu province drug lab, officials said Aug 22.

Hak Vat, a director of Prey Sar prison, said that Chea Chung was sent to his prison around 5 pm Aug 21 and was arrested Aug 15, the same day as Oum Chhay, a suspect in the same case who apparently committed suicide Aug 21 while in police custody at the Interior Ministry’s Anti-Drug Department office in Phnom Penh.

“Chea Chung was arrested at the Bavet [border] checkpoint” in Svay Rieng province, Hak Vat said, adding that he was charged by mun­icipal court Investigating Judge Kim Ravy.

Kim Ravy said he was too busy to speak to a reporter Aug 22.

Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sop­heak confirmed that Chea Chung, 42, was charged Aug 21 as an al­leged ringleader of the drug production lab, which police raided in April.

He declined, however, to elaborate on the case or the charges against him, referring questions to Anti-Drug Department Director Moek Dara.

A man answering Moek Dara’s phone and identifying himself as Moek Dara’s driver said the di­rec­tor was too busy to speak with a reporter.

Officials announced in April that Chea Chung was suspected of owning the 62 hectares in Kompong Speu’s Sruoch district where the clan­destine laboratory was discovered.

Nhiek Bun Chhay could not be reached for comment.

Doubts were raised Aug 22 about the death of Oum Chhay—an adviser to National Assembly and Honorary CPP President Heng Samrin—while he was in police custody for allegedly aiding in the transportation of four tons of drug precursor chemicals to the Kompong Speu lab.

Khieu Sopheak said Aug 22 that Oum Chhay, who al­legedly leapt to his death from the second sto­ry of the Anti-Drug Department of­fice, was in the “sitting area” of Moek Dara’s office when he jumped.

Interior Ministry doctors determined that Oum Chhay died from a head injury sustained after he jumped, Khieu Sopheak said.

“They concluded that [Oum Chhay’s] head hit the ground,” he said, claiming that Oum Chhay’s widow had declined to allow a full autopsy of her husband.

Khieu Sopheak referred further questions to Deputy Natio­nal Po­lice Commissioner Neth Sa­v­oeurn, who is heading the com­mittee investigating Oum Chhay’s death. Neth Savoeurn could not be reached for comment.

Contact details for Oum Chhay’s widow could not be obtained Aug 22.

SRP lawmaker Yim Sovann, who chairs the National Assem­bly commission on the interior, said he doubted claims that Oum Chhay committed suicide and called on the Interior Ministry to investigate the matter and reveal their findings to the public.

“I doubt it is a suicide,” he said. “I’m afraid that this is linked to other high-ranking officials who are behind the death.”

Heng Samrin, who was scheduled to return from Malaysia on Aug 22, could not be reach­ed for comment.

Kek Galabru, president of local rights group Licadho, said the decision by the Interior Ministry to not allow NGOs or reporters to view the scene of the suicide had raised doubts about whether Oum Chhay really killed himself.

She added that if the death was a sui­cide, it was irresponsible of the In­terior Ministry to allow it to happen.

“The Ministry of Interior should be careful when they ar­rest a person, and not allow them to jump through the window like that,” Kek Galabru said.

On Aug 22 the US Em­bas­sy announced that the US would provide an additional $80,000 to “cover further clean-up costs [at the lab] and to undertake other activities in Cambodia.” The US and Australia have already donated $60,000 each to the cleanup efforts.

US Embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle wrote in an e-mail that the embassy is seeking additional information on Oum Chhay’s death.

“Until we have more details on this case, it would [be] irresponsible to speculate on how it could affect future funding for drug enforcement activities in Cam­bodia,” Daigle wrote.

Officials at the Australian Em­bassy could not be reached for comment.




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