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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Bun Chhay denies drug link

Bun Chhay denies drug link

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bun.jpg

Following the police crackdown on two illegal drug laboratories in Phnom Penh and

Kampong Speu, local media alleged the raided land was owned by Nhek Bun Chhay, deputy

prime minister and secretary-general of Funcinpec. He has since denied any link to

the case. Clouding the matter, however, is the ongoing manhunt for his former adviser

Chea Chung, who was named as owner of the land and subsequently charged with drug

offenses. Bun Chhay spoke to Vong Sokheng on April 11 at Funcinpec headquarters about

his relationship with Chung, the land in question and the drug trade.

Deputy Prime Minister Nhek Bun Chhay speaks at Funcinpec headquarters on October 18, 2006.

What is your relationship with Chea Chung and the drug raid?

Chea Chung used to be my adviser during the time that I was co-Minister of Defense.

Chea Chung was a lieutenant colonel at the Ministry of Defense when I took power

as co-Minister of Defense. He asked to be my honorary advisor without pay or work

- just a title - while the other advisers received a paycheck for proper work. When

I stopped as co-Minister of Defense, he stopped being my adviser. On a broadcast

of Voice of America radio they said the drug raid occurred on my land. But in reality

it is not my land, so it has nothing to do with me. The land first belonged to the

military, who sold it to Chea Chung to raise cows with a Chinese and Malaysian company.

The fact is there is no evidence that the land belongs to me. I don't have land [in

Treng Trayeng commune, Kampong Speu province]. There is no land title there that

belongs to me. I have told the media to make a correction about their broadcasts

and reports that the land belonged to me.

Have these reports damaged your reputation?

Of course my reputation was affected after the media published and broadcast their

stories. But I have no involvement in the case. It seems that someone made it up

to destroy my reputation. I know the truth. I requested my cabinet chief to clarify

the issue and I don't think it will impact Funcinpec in the upcoming national elections

in 2008. I am not concerned about this issue because I am not involved with the case.

The court, the National Authority on Combating Drugs and the police have investigated

and questioned the people who have been arrested. This has also proven there is no

evidence that involves me.

How long have you known Chea Chung?

I have known him since 1999, but I'm not very close to him. He became my adviser

after 2003, but then that finished.

Was Chea Chung still at the Ministry of Defense when you stopped being co-Minister

of Defense?

Yes.

Is Chea Chung a member of the Funcinpec party?

Yes, he is. But he will not have an impact on Funcinpec. Until now I saw that the

court charged a "Chung," a Chinese man, but not Chea Chung. I think the

investigation is still continuing. I have not investigated into the issue yet, but

as I understand the land which belonged to Chea Chung was rented to a third party.

Does the car that was confiscated during the raid belong to you?

Yes, it belongs to me. But Chung borrowed it from me during Cheng Meng [a Chinese

traditional celebration held the first week of April] and parked it at his rental

house in Kampong Speu. The car was not in the area of the drug raid. Chung borrowed

my car to take around his family, when they were visiting from the US. The authorities

returned the car to me after they found that the case had nothing to do with me.

Do you know where Chea Chung is now?

No, I don't know where he is. I haven't seen him, and have no connection to him,

and have received no information from him.

Did he come to work at Funcinpec after the drug raid and arrests?

No. I think this issue will not impact Funcinpec because it is not related to Funcinpec.

We have a million members in Funcinpec and one among them was bad. This is not unusual.

Even in just one family a child might be smoking and taking drugs and the parents

don't know. I will not allow the media to continue publishing what is not true. I

will sue them if they continue to publish allegations about me without evidence or

proof.

Is there anything you want to explain about this issue?

I didn't see it, but I was told that the equipment they used weighed about ten tons.

I would like them to investigate how it was imported into Cambodia. The second issue

is the tanks that stored the chemicals. Each tank was about 200 liters and there

were about a dozen tanks. Again, it is not easy to bring these into the country.

There is another point: I think that everything together was 17 kinds of chemicals,

but only one might be a chemical for drugs and the other 16 might not be. When they

mix them together it might become an addictive drug. I was told that when they opened

the cover of the tank it caused the grass to die. If it's that liquid alone, maybe

it's a liquid chemical to kill the grass for the farm. But when they mix it, it becomes

an addictive drug. But, we don't know. I want the authorities to undertake a thorough

investigation because this has had a huge impact on the nation. It's a big problem

when we are not sure and make hasty conclusions to point out someone's guilt. As

with me it could have destroyed my reputation. I want the authorities to find who

is responsible.

I have no money in any bank outside the country or inside the country. If one of

my children has to go to school, I have to request a scholarship. I was living in

the jungle for a long time, but I have no background in smuggling drugs or trafficked

artifacts. I hope that they will not use this drug raid for political purposes. I

have been fortunate. Two or three times already people have tried to accuse me of

creating armed forces and orchestrating robberies, but it was not true. Just like

this time when I was accused as the owner of the land. But I have documents to prove

that the land did not belong to me. If I didn't I would have a big problem.

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