The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday sentenced two people—who are still on the loose—to life in prison and handed down jail terms of up to 30 years to nine others after a dramatic series of raids on drug factories across the city in May last year.
In overnight raids on May 1 and 2, 2012, police searched eight locations across four districts and confiscated 4,190 liters of m’reas prov oil—which can be extracted from trees found in Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains and is used in the manufacture of MDMA, the active ingredient in the narcotic Ecstasy.
Police also found other chemicals and glassware used to make drugs in what at the time was labeled the biggest bust of drug factories in the capital’s history.
Eleven people arrested during the raids and in subsequent days appeared in court Wednesday, while two people, a Vietnamese national and a Vietnamese-Canadian, remain on the loose.
Judge Kim Dany said they were guilty of the transport, possession and production of illegal drugs and gave life sentences to the two who have yet to be apprehended.
“We issue a sentence to Chov Van Cho, 49, a Vietnamese citizen, and Chov Van Leuy, 39, a Canadian-Vietnamese citizen, giving them life in prison,” Judge Dany said.
Of the 11 charged, six Vietnamese nationals and three Cambodians were found guilty and given a month in which to appeal, according to the judge.
However, two Cambodians were acquitted by the court, he said. “Lay Vy, 26, and Heng Vandy, 37, were released because they were not involved with illegal drug production and smuggling.”
Vietnamese nationals Kouv Vann Khanh, 55; Chuv Van Thach, 34; Yeun Thiheung, 34; and Nguyen Thiyen, 34, all received 30 years in jail
Their compatriot Nguyen Vinh Thanh, 60, was sentenced to 20 years, as were Cambodians Kearv Rithiyon, 29, and May Phanny, 27.
Shorter sentences were handed to Cambodian Mao Kin, 29, who will serve another 18 months in prison, and to Vietnamese national Nguyen Thithan, 55, who received six months and will be released on time served.
Deputy Municipal police chief Pen Roth said police believed the pair still on the loose had fled to Vietnam, and said police had sought international help in catching them.
“We sent a red notice to Interpol one month after the raids,” Mr. Roth said.