Taiwan National Imprisoned on Drug Charges

A Taiwanese national was sentenced to 11 years in prison in Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday, more than a year after he was caught transporting 1.5 kg of heroin into the country.

Presiding Judge Kim Sophorn found Pan Chin Hsiung, 44, guilty of drug trafficking. Pan was arrested July 26, 2003, at Phnom Penh International Airport on his way to Taiwan with the packaged stash of heroin strapped to his body. He told the court Wednes­day that a Taiwanese man living in Cambodia, whom he named only as Lin, had given him the package and promised to pay him $150 for taking it to Taiwan. He said he had not realized it contained heroin.

Speaking to a reporter before the judge announced his verdict, Pan said in broken English: “The prosecutor said I buy drug, but I no buy.”

He added that he had come to Cambodia as a tourist and had arrived in the country for the first time only four days before his arrest. He said he worked as a steel laborer in Taiwan.

Pan’s lawyer, Loung Sokha, protested the verdict, saying his client was jailed past the legal six-month pre-trial detention period.

“His trial had been postponed many times,” Loung Sokha said. But, he said, he had no plans to appeal the verdict.

Kek Galabru, founder of the human rights group Licadho, confirmed that it was illegal for judges to allow suspects to be detained more than six months without trial, adding that it was a common violation of the law.

“We still have a lot of cases related with the over-detention of suspects,” she said.

Repeated calls to Judge Kim Sophorn went unanswered on Wednesday.

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