Former Oddar Meanchey provincial governor Lay Vireak (centre), flanked by family members, enters Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday. Photograph: Hong Menea/Phnom Penh Post
Former Oddar Meanchey governor Lay Vireak and former Deputy Commander of the Special Military Region in the Ministry of National Defence Khuon Roeun are each looking down the barrel of at least 18 years in prison, lawyers said yesterday at the start of the massive drug trial against them at Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
The two officials and their alleged junior accomplices – Chheang Chhunly and Sour Seila – listened as the deputy prosecutor Seang Sok read out the drug trafficking and illegal weapon possession charges levied in the wake of an October sting in which they allegedly attempted to deal about one kilogram of methamphetamines to undercover cops.
“According to police research and investigations, Khoun Roen was the owner of these seized drugs, and Lay Vireak was a person who acted as a broker and sought buyers for his friends’ [Khuon Roeun] drugs,” Seang Sok told the court.
The raid’s leader, Lieutenant Colonel Truos Sokchea, chief of the Ministry of Interior’s Drug Research and Laboratory Office, said the alleged criminals were busted at Vireak’s house.
“They were arrested by our police agents while they were selling drugs weighing one kilogram worth US$50,000 to our police agents,” he told the court yesterday.
“After their arrests, police seized a total of 912 grams of methamphetamines and one AK-47 rifle from them at the scene,” he said, adding that police had also confiscated two cars and a 12th-century bronze Angkorian relic Vireak had smuggled from the Cambodian-Thai border where he used to patrol.
All four accused denied the accusations during their trials yesterday.
General Lay Vireak said that he was not a drug trafficker and was unaware of the presence of drugs hidden in an XO wine box stashed in his car.
Verdicts are due on July 3.
To contact the reporter on this story: Buth Reaksmey Kongkea at firstname.lastname@example.org