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Former governor gets 12 years in jail

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Former Oddar Meanchey provincial Governor Lay Vireak (centre) at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court last month. Photograph: Hong Menea/Phnom Penh Post

Former Oddar Meanchey provincial Governor Lay Vireak (centre) at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court last month. Photograph: Hong Menea/Phnom Penh Post

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday convicted former Oddar Meanchey provincial governor Lay Vireak and ex-Ministry of National Defence deputy commander Khuon Roeun to 12 and 16 years in jail respectively for drug trafficking and illegal weapon possession.

Presiding judge Oeung Seang read their sentence, and that of two accomplices, at a hearing that went unattended by both of the former major generals, and announced that the four guilty persons had the right to appeal if they did not accept the court’s decisions.

Heng Poung, a lawyer for Roeun, promised to take advantage of that right.

“I think that the court’s decision was very unjust for my client, Khuon Roeun, and I could not accept it, because there was no real proof to show that he was the owner of the drugs,” he said. “To find truth and justice for my client, I will appeal to oppose the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s decision to the Court of Appeal soon.”

Vireak and Roeun, and their accomplices Chheang Chhunly and Sour Seila, were arrested by anti-drug police on the outskirts on Phnom Penh in Po Sen Chey district last October.

During the arrest, police seized nearly a kilogram of methamphetamine powder, two AK-47s and ammunition, and a 12th-century Angkorean bronze artefact that police believe Vireak smuggled from the Thai border, where he used to patrol.

In addition to their jail time, Vireak and Roeun were also fined 25 million and 32 million riel (US$6,250 and $8,000), respectively. Their accomplices, Chhunly and Seila, were respectively sentenced to 12 and 10 years, and fined 25 million and 20 million riels ($6,250 and $5,000).

The four suspects denied that they had committed the offences, and at his trial, Vireak said that he was not a drug trafficker, adding that he knew nothing about the drugs hidden in a wine box in the car.

“I did not accept my charges because I had not committed anything wrong as accused,” he said at the time. “I was an innocent person.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Buth Reaksmey Kongkea at reaksmeykongkea.buth@phnompenhpost.com

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