POLICE are detaining a military police officer in connection with last month's marijuana
seizure, which has become a controversial excuse for the Prime Ministers to launch
allegations against each other.
Chao Sokhon, a military police deputy commanding officer in Sihanoukville - where
more than six tonnes of marijuana was seized by anti-drug police on Apr 2 - has been
held in Police Judiciare (PJ) prison since his arrest in connection with the case
on Apr 22.
"He attempted to escape from being arrested but we succeeded in implementing
the court warrant. He will be judged by the law [although] he has maintained his
innocence," said deputy commander of national military police Sao Sokha.
It took law enforcement officers 11 days to execute the warrant which was issued
by the Municipal Court on Apr 11. Police said that Sokhon had become a fugitive since
then, hiding at the house of RCAF's Deputy Chief of Staff Nhek Bun Chhay.
Bun Chhay (Funcinpec) denied having anything to do with Sokhon or that he protected
him. The arrest was carried out amidst high fears of armed clashes.
In late evening of Apr 22, Sokhon was taken to the court where heavily armed MPs
had been deployed in a precautionary measure to prevent any attempts to liberate
him. Shortly after his arrival, Sokhon was driven under heavy military escort to
Sokha said the suspect was taken from an army barracks in Tang Kasang village north
of Pochentong airport, where a unit of RCAF loyal to Funcinpec is based.
Refusing to name Bun Chhay as the key protector of the suspect, Sokha, however, said:
"If he did not have anyone behind him, he would not have caused the delay of
In a speech aired on Apsara radio on Apr 22, Second Premier Hun Sen pointed the finger
at Bun Chhay as a protector of Sokhon. He warned Bun Chhay of an unspecified measure
to be taken against him if he didn't hand over the suspect to the court, "no
matter if you wear three golden stars" - Bun Chhay's rank in the army - "or
Hun Sen, amid political mud-slinging over the Sihanoukville marijuana haul, had earlier
slapped a $10,000 reward on the arrest of Sokhon. In the wake of the military policeman's
arrest, it was unclear whether anyone would receive the reward.
Police have a list of ten other men to be arrested, but chief of Municipal anti-drug
police Heng Peo declined to release their names. Complaining that politics has complicated
his investigation, Peo said that he has received an assassination threat from Bun
Chhay because of the Sokhon affair.
Bun Chhay has denied making such a threat.
Meanwhile, both prime ministers whose relationship is beyond repair have intensified
their war of words over the marijuana issue.
Ranariddh has accused Hun Sen's aide Mong Reththy of trafficking the dope and appealed
for international assistance to curb the kingdom's increasing drug problems.
On Apr 21, he sent letters to US President Bill Clinton and senators asking them
to send expertise to assist Cambodia's anti-drug authorities. In the letters, the
prince particularly named Mong Reththy - Hun Sen's economic adviser, and tycoon Theng
Bun Ma - recently banned from entering the US - as suspects in drug trafficking.
In a show of disbelief in the government's law enforcement capabilities, Ranariddh
wrote: "Cambodia will be run by drug dealers with close ties to high [ranking]
and corrupt officials in the government, the police force and the army."
In a speech on Apr 18, he said that he could not afford to build many schools like
Hun Sen, because: "Funcinpec party does not have marijuana to sell, it is poor".
Ranariddh's comment which implied that the CPP enriches itself with drug money drew
a furious response from Hun Sen.
The CPP's vice president described the prince's comment as the "language of
a bratty person".
Hun Sen added: "If you don't have money, you don't have to accuse other people
that they have money because they sell marijuana."