The lawyer for Kampot deputy provincial police Chief Keo Tha, who was arrested almost one year ago for his alleged involvement in protecting a 60-hectare marijuana plantation in Kampot province, says his client has been in custody too long without a trial.
Keo Tha and Keo Bunthoeun, chief of the Interior Ministry’s Intervention Police, were arrested last April following a high-profile operation that destroyed sophisticated marijuana plantations in the remote Chhouk district.
But almost one year since their arrest, a court date has not yet been set, said Kao Sopha, Keo Tha’s lawyer, in Phnom Penh Municipal Court Tuesday.
Criminal investigations by the courts should take six months with the possibility of a two-month extension in serious cases.
But Keo Tha has been held almost twice as long as is legally permitted, Kao Sopha said.
“It is very, very wrong. It has taken more than one year already,” Kao Sopha said.
He also said his client still maintains that other high-ranking officials protected the marijuana plantations and should be prosecuted as well.
Municipal Court Chief Prosecutor Uk Savuth said the delay was due to the number of serious allegations Investigating Judge Mong Mony Chakriya had to examine.
Uk Savuth did not specify what allegations the courts were examining, although he did say that many of the charges proved baseless. Uk Savuth said he did not know when the trial would take place.
The US State Department blacklist report of drug-producing and trafficking nations released last week specifically referred to the Kampot marijuana case in its section on Cambodia.
Cambodia’s fight against narcotics is hampered by widespread corruption and lack of technical expertise among law enforcement officers, the report said.
PJ Prison officer Yoeun Thanarat said Tuesday that Keo Tha and Keo Bunthoeun are still in the prison and in good health.