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Charges reduced in high-profile drug case

Three alleged drug traffickers, including a former member of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s body-guard unit, had their charges reduced yesterday by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court due to insufficient evidence.

Last December, 34-year-old Hay Chanphearith, an ex-lieutenant colonel, was arrested in Phnom Penh while retrieving a FedEx envelope from India containing an estimated 1.5 kilogrammes of pseudoephedrine, a drug used in the production of methamphetamine.

Chanphearith’s arrest led authorities to Vietnamese-Canadian Ly Vanlanh, for whom Hay Chanpheartith said he picked up the package, and Ly Vanlanh’s driver, Mai Chunghiv.

All three men had the charge of drug trafficking dropped yesterday.

“There is no real proof that they were involved in international drug trafficking as accused,” Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge Chea Sokheang said yesterday in court.

Ly Vanlanh and Mai Chunghiv were instead convicted of importing drugs and sentenced to nine and seven years, respectively, and fines of 18 million riel (about US$4,500) and 14 million riel.

Hay Champhearith had all drug charges against him dropped and was only convicted of illegal use of a weapon, for which judge Chea Sokheang sentenced him to one year in jail and fined him two million riel.

Luong Sokha, attorney for Ly Vanlanh and Mai Chunghiv,  criticised the court’s decision. “There is no real proof to show that they are guilty as accused. We will appeal,” he said.

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