Sokha Hotel Drug Traffickers Sentenced to 25 Years in Prison

A Chinese woman and Cambodian man accused of trafficking crystal methamphetamine at the luxury Sokha Hotel in Phnom Penh were sentenced on Tuesday to 25 years in prison.

Three additional suspects involved in the case received two years in prison after multiple charges against each of them were reduced to drug possession during a separate hearing at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday morning.

Raids of two hotel rooms in February led to the arrest of Hong Hao Yuan, 25, and Ly Thiem Chhay, 26, along with five Chinese men and a Vietnamese woman. Two of the men and the Vietnamese woman were later released.

Between Ms. Hong and Mr. Thiem Chhay, who were reported for suspicious behavior by hotel staff, police found 490 grams of crystal meth as well as glass chemical flasks.

Testifying at the court last month, Ms. Hong admitted to buying $30 worth of drugs for personal use and passing along a black plastic bag to Mr. Thiem Chhay when he delivered the meth to her room.

Mr. Thiem Chhay was intercepted as he left the hotel, and security found that the black bag contained crystal meth, though he denied knowledge of its contents.

On Tuesday, the two took the brunt of the penalties in the bust.

“The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has decided to sentence defendant Ly Thiem Chhay to 25 years and Hong Hao Yuan to 25 years, and both have been fined 50 million riel,” or about $12,500, Presiding Judge Heng Sokna announced to the courtroom.

As she was escorted from the courtroom in tears, her infant daughter in her arms, Ms. Hong said the ruling was unjust.

“Why did the court sentence me for so long like this? I wasn’t involved in drug dealing,” she said. Aside from the small amount of meth she purchased, she said, “I didn’t have any drugs.”

Mr. Thiem Chhay said he had not decided yet whether he would appeal the court’s decision, but was “very sad now.”

Neither of the defendants’ lawyers could be reached.

The three remaining suspects—who were arrested in the raid of a separate room—had faced a variety of charges, including illegal possession of sex toys, and a gun, conspiracy to manufacture drugs, drug manufacturing and trafficking.

“The court decided that defendants Zhou Bi Qaing, Yang Lishun and Liv Werong will receive a change of their charges to possession of drugs, with a sentence of two years,” Presiding Judge Sor Linna said on Tuesday. They were also each fined 5 million riel, or about $1,250.

Judge Linna also issued arrest warrants for two other Chinese men, whose names and alleged involvement were not disclosed.

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