Thai Drug Smuggler Receives Life Sentence

A 22-year-old Thai woman was sentenced to life in prison on Thursday for smuggling 2.5 kg of cocaine into the country concealed in chocolate bars and a whisky box.

Municipal Court Presiding Judge Heng Kesro found Kaewkanlaya Amphawan guilty of illegally possessing and transporting the drugs, which were found when she arrived at the Phnom Penh International Airport in March.

Judge Kesro also fined Ms. Amphawan 60 million riel, or about $15,000.

Defense lawyer Ou Bunra said the sentencing was in line with the law based on the amount and purity of the confiscated cocaine, but insisted his client was an innocent victim of a setup. Her boyfriend had organized the trip and one of his relatives packed the drugs in her bag without her knowledge, he said.

The boyfriend had promised to marry and financially support Ms. Amphawan after she returned home, he added.

“My client did not get any benefit and did not know in advance that it was drugs,” Mr. Bunra said. He said he would discuss an appeal with his client.

Sroy Proeut, the bureau chief for customs and inspection at the airport, said Ms. Amphawan had aroused suspicions by flying from Dubai to Cambodia with no checked baggage.

Pleang Noeun, deputy chief of the Interior Ministry’s anti-drug police unit, said police had searched for the smuggling ringleaders to no avail. Police at the time blamed journalists reporting on the story for their failure to find them.

Mr. Noeun said Ms. Amphawan had been working at a bar in Pattaya, Thailand, and dating a man named Mr. Do, who promised to give her 5,000 baht, or about $140, every month after marrying her. After his repeated attempts to persuade her to travel overseas, Ms. Amphawan finally agreed to go to Doha, Qatar, to collect something from Mr. Do’s older brother.

“She said she did not know it was drugs and thought it was chocolate,” Mr. Noeun said.

Judge Kesro said the cocaine was found to have a purity of 73.38 percent by weight.

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