Thai Woman Tried for Drug Trafficking

A Thai woman charged with attempting to smuggle nearly 13 kg of cocaine through Phnom Penh International Airport last year protested her innocence Wednesday during her trial at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

Bucha Freedaporn, 35, was arrested at the airport on August 14, 2012, when authorities discovered 10 black plastic bags containing 12.89 kg of cocaine in her suitcase. Her arrest came a day after another Thai woman, 22-year-old Rodsiri Rungtiwa, was caught at the airport with a nearly identical haul. The two arrests combined led to Cambodia’s largest ever seizure of cocaine.

In court Wednesday, Ms. Freedaporn said she had been paid by another Thai woman she knew only as “Kong” to transport a suitcase from Brazil to Thailand via Singapore and Cambodia.

“The suitcase belonged to me, but I did not know that it contained drugs,” she said, explaining that the taxi-driver who took her to the airport in Brazil had packed the suitcase for her, claiming that it contained only clothing and an iPhone.

“I request that the judge release me, so I may return home to live with my family,” she said.

Deputy court prosecutor Khiev Phala said that the evidence suggests Ms. Freedaporn will be found guilty of drug smuggling.

The verdict will be announced on October 16.

In a separate case Wednesday, the Municipal Court concluded the hearings for well-known businessman Tan Seng Hak, 53, who was arrested in November when police discovered 1.5 kg of cocaine, methamphetamine and another as-yet-unidentified substance at his villa in Sen Sok district. Mr. Seng Hak was subsequently charged with conspiracy to traffic drugs.

Mr. Seng Hak’s lawyer, Som Sokong, reiterated his client’s argument that anti-narcotics police had planted the drugs in his home in order to frame him and 11 others who were arrested during the bust.

“My client denies that the drugs police found in his home belonged to him,” Mr. Sokong told the court.

All of the others arrested along with Mr. Seng Hak, including his 22-year-old son, have denied the charges against them.

A verdict is due on October 22.

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