The chief of CPP President Chea Sim’s personal bodyguard unit was arrested at his Phnom Penh home on Saturday morning by municipal military police for offenses that are still unclear, according to his replacement.
Lieutenant General Chhoeun Chanthan was also fired Saturday by Royal decree from his dual positions as bodyguard chief and personal adviser to Mr Chea Sim, according to the replacement, Lieutenant General Yim Leang.
Lt Gen Leang said that Lt Gen Chanthan was arrested at about 9 am at his home in Chamkar Mon district’s Boeng Keng Kang III commune by forces led by deputy municipal prosecutor Meas Chan Piseth and municipal military police commander Ya Kim Y.
A cache of illegal weapons, including four handguns, seven other firearms and 1,400 bullets, was also confiscated from Lt Gen Chanthan’s home at the time of his arrest, Lt Gen Leang said.
“The reason for firing Lt Gen Chhoeun Chanthan was because he was inactive in his work, he did not know his own men, and he was using drugs and involved with drugs,” said Lt Gen Leang. He said the arrest was prompted by complaints by seven of Mr Chea Sim’s bodyguards about their boss’ behavior, but he would not comment on what specific offenses Lt Gen Chanthan may have committed, or possible charges he could face.
“I was appointed yesterday to be Samdech Chea Sim’s bodyguard unit [chief] by Royal government decree issued August 13,” added Lt Gen Leang, who also serves as deputy chief of Mr Chea Sim’s Cabinet and an RCAF deputy commander-in-chief.
Lt Gen Leang is the son of Deputy Prime Minister Yim Chhay Li, who is related by marriage to Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Deputy municipal military police chief Colonel Pol Davy confirmed the arrest but also declined to comment on the alleged crimes committed by Lt Gen Chanthan, saying only: “He was arrested because of the complaints of his own men.”
Col Davy added that Lt Gen Chanthan was currently in military police custody and would be sent to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to be charged today.
Chea Son, Mr Chea Sim’s Cabinet chief, said he could not comment on the situation because he was out of town. Another Cabinet chief, Mom Sarin, declined to comment.
This is not the first time Lt Gen Chanthan has been accused of illicit activities.
In January 2010, Mr Hun Sen named him in a public speech as one of three high-ranking military officers involved in illegal business schemes. Referring to the then-bodyguard chief by his nickname, Mao, the premier accused him of attempting to sell the Navy headquarters in Phnom Penh, and of using soldiers under his command to work on his farm.
In January 2009, shortly after former RCAF Commander-in-Chief Ke Kim Yan was sacked in a move that some observers saw as a consolidation of power within the ruling CPP, 507 soldiers were removed from Mr Chea Sim’s bodyguard detail. The mass redeployment left the Chea Sim unit with about 100 bodyguards.