Taiwanese couple tried on drug smuggling charges

Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday tried a Taiwanese couple for allegedly smuggling heroin into Prey Sar prison last year.

Chien Liang Yi, 31, and his wife Chur Ya Ting, 21, were arrested in December 2009 during a visit to a convicted Taiwanese drug smuggler.

Deputy prosecutor Heang Sopheak told the court that the police searched the two and discovered 356.9 grams of cut heroin in Ms Chur’s bag, and that drug traffickers paid her $1,560 to bring the drugs inside the prison walls.

“I still keep the charge with drug trafficking on them,” he said. The two could face five to 10 years in prison if convicted and could end up at Prey Sar prison to serve their time.

In court Ms Chur acknowledged that she transported the package, but said she did not know its contents included drugs.

Mr Chur said that in December she met two men at NagaWorld casino who asked her to bring a care package and $1,500 in Taiwanese currency to Taiwanese prisoners in Prey Sar.

“I didn’t know what was in this thing–if I knew there was heroin inside, I would not have done it,” she said.

Mr Chien said in court he was unaware of what his wife was carrying and knew nothing about two men at NagaWorld.

“I do not know what’s in the gift, because I did not carry it,” he said. “I don’t know about the [$1,560].”

He said he only visited the convicted drug traffickers because he knows their family and they asked him to see their relatives.

Thuy Sokun, the lawyer representing Ms Chur, said the lack of intent was grounds for acquittal.

“Please judges acquit my client,” he said.

Both Mr Sokun and Presiding Judge Duch Kimsan said they did not know the name of convicted drug smuggler the drugs were allegedly intended for.

Heng Hak, general director of the general department of prisons, said that guards regularly search visitors to prisons, but he was not aware of guards discovering drugs on any other visitor.

Pung Chhiv Kek, president of the human rights NGO Licadho, expressed doubts that Mr Pheakdey’s arrest would lead to the apprehension of high-level drug traffickers and producers.

“It is the usual pattern. A small protagonist is arrested and the big fish behind is left unpunished,” she said.

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