A prominent Cambodian lawyer and television commentator, five other Cambodians and six Laotians were released from police custody in Preah Vihear province yesterday morning after police were unable to confirm their suspicion that the 12 were involved in drug trafficking.
Police in Preah Vihear’s Chheb district had arrested the group after finding that the Laotians – three men and three women – had illegally crossed the border without passports and that some of the Cambodians were carrying guns, Preah Vihear provincial prosecutor Ly Lon said yesterday.
But instead of the suspected drugs, they found that lawyer Dy Borima and several of the others were carrying small Buddha charms and various amulets intended to ward off evil spirits, he said. The Cambodian suspects told them the Laotians had crossed the border to sell the items to them.
“In fact, there was no offence because the holy objects are not antiques and they had no drugs either,” Lon said.
The released Laotians would be expected to return over the border, he added.
Cambodian Bar Association spokesman Yim Sary yesterday gave credit for Borima’s release to the two lawyers sent to Preah Vihear by the Bar Association to negotiate on his behalf.
“I am proud that the BA could give legal help to its own lawyers,” Sary said, adding, however, that “the authorities just arrested them temporarily for questioning, as is the police’s procedure.”
Borima was not one of the arrested found in possession of a gun, but he had been carrying some of the amulets from Laos, Sary said.
Borima has appeared as a legal commentator on the Phnom Penh municipal station TV3 and has defended a former Khmer Rouge cadre implicated in a notorious train hostage-taking incident as well as a nephew of Hun Sen’s who was ultimately convicted of unintentional murder for a shooting spree.
Police offered no explanation as to why the group had chosen to skirt legal border checkpoints.