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Chea Sim bodyguard chief seized

The chief of Senate president Chea Sim’s bodyguard unit is expected to be sent to Phnom Penh Municipal Court today to face charges including the illegal possession of firearms following his arrest on Saturday.

Dozens of military police surrounded Chhoeun Chanthan’s large villa in Phnom Penh’s Boeung Keng Kang III commune on Friday night in preparat-ion for a raid that took place about 8am on Saturday.

After the arrest, authorities displayed weapons and hundreds of bullets to local media before taking four suspects away in military trucks.

Three bodyguards who lived with 41-year-old Chhoeun Chanthan were also apprehended. They were named in a military police statement as Pak Sier, 40, Chum Sros, 38, and Pov Meunchan, 27.

Military police spokesman Kheng Tito said yesterday the four had been arrested for “secretly keeping illegal weapons”, but declined to elaborate.

The statement said 12 guns and 1,420 bullets had been found in the house belonging to Chhoeun Chanthan, who is also known as “Mao”, as in kmao, or “black”.

Prime Minister Hun Sen named  Chhoeun Chanthan during a speech in January, 2010 in which he warned that military officials involved in corrupt activity would be sacked.

“I don’t care how many stars or moons you have – I will fire you, and nobody will keep corrupt commanders in their seats,” the premier said at the time.

“In Cambodia, the prime minister directly controls the troops.”

In addition to Chhoeun Chanthan, Hun Sen said several other high-ranking officials were corrupt: Sum Samnang, director-general of logistics and finance at the Ministry of Defence; Chao Phirun, director-general of the military’s materials and technical services department; and Ung Samkhan, commander of the Cambodian navy, who was later removed from his posit-ion and replaced by Defence Minister Tea Banh’s younger brother, Tea Vinh.

Hun Sen was quick to approve a replacement for the arrested chief bodyguard. On Saturday, a sub- decree was released naming his replacement as Yim Leang, who was given the rank of three-star general.

Yim Leang has served in Chea Sim’s bodyguard for at least a decade and has close ties to the Prime Minister.

He attained the rank of general in 2001, at the age of  28, becoming the country’s youngest. His father is Deputy Prime Minister Yim Chhay Li, and his sister, Yim Chhay Lin, is married to Hun Sen’s son Hun Many.

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