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Court charges trio in arms trafficking case

The locked gates of  former CMAC official Ub Vireak's home in Battambang province, where he was arrested last week for alleged involvement in cross-border arms smuggling.
The locked gates of former CMAC official Ub Vireak's home in Battambang province, where he was arrested last week for alleged involvement in cross-border arms smuggling. Heng Chivoan

Court charges trio in arms trafficking case

Three men arrested for involvement in cross-border arms smuggling were yesterday charged with weapons trafficking, the prosecutor handling the case said.

Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court Deputy Prosecutor Sok Keobandith said the trio, arrested on Friday, were charged under Article 488 of the Cambodian Criminal Code, which covers the production or trafficking of weapons, explosives and ammunition and carries a possible prison term of between five and 10 years.

“We have charged three people . . . under Article 488 of the penal code this morning and handed the case to the investigating judge,” Keobandith said yesterday.

Banteay Meanchey Deputy Provincial Police Chief Sith Los said officers continued to search for four more suspects in case. The three people charged have been named by police as Ub Vireak, farmer Chim Lin and labourer Yim Savy.

However Vireak has been identified as Ap Leng Cheu by the head of the Cambodian Mine Action Clearance Centre, where the 48-year-old works to clear battlefield ordinance left over from the Kingdom’s decades of war.

Los has said Vireak obtained the weaponry in the course of his duties with CMAC, and police have alleged Lin and Savy helped send it to Thailand through Banteay Meanchey’s Malai district.

The arms – three mortar tubes and rounds – were discovered by Thai authorities upon arresting five men in Thailand’s Sa Kaeo province a week ago. They were allegedly ordered by another suspect living near Thailand’s border with Myanmar who was arrested on Friday.

Vireak, the CMAC staffer, was stationed in Kampong Cham but arrested at his Battambang town home, a week after taking leave from his CMAC duties on July 15.

Yesterday the gate to his O’Char commune property, surrounded by a high metal fence, was locked, though the house’s door remained open and the lights on.

But neighbour Ros Chansok, 54, said after his arrest on Friday by about six policemen that Vireak’s wife had also left and not returned, asking her family to feed the couple’s two dogs.

She said she only knew her neighbour as “Mr CMAC”, and was “shocked” at his arrest.

“He was friendly. He would come and go to work and always lock the gate,” Chansok said.

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