Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Drug sentence decried

Drug sentence decried

Drug sentence decried

drug.jpg
drug.jpg

Gordon Vong, 16, stands outside the Phnom Penh municipal court on April 22 with his mother and an unidentified family member.

A

n Australian civil liberties group has criticized the severity of a 13-year jail

term given to an Australian-Vietnamese teenager caught trying to smuggle heroin out

of Cambodia.

Gordon Vuong, 16, was arrested in January at Phnom Penh International Airport with

2.1 kilograms of heroin strapped to his torso.

On May 3, presiding judge Kim Sophorn sentenced Vuong to 13 years imprisonment for

drug trafficking, telling the Phnom Penh municipal court that the high school student's

age prompted him to give less than the 20-year maximum sentence.

But Terry O'Gorman, president of the Australian Council for Civil Liberties condemned

the sentence, saying that Vuong was being unfairly judged by adult standards.

"The issue of a juvenile being sentenced to such a whacking term is an issue,

frankly, the federal government has got to get involved with," O'Gorman told

the Australian Associated Press.

The Australian ambassador to Cambodia refused to comment on consular matters, but

Vuong's lawyer, Mon Keosivin, said embassy representatives had been monitoring the

case.

According to Vuong's written statement to police, he was approached during a trip

to Hong Kong by a "light-skinned" man, possibly British, who said he would

give the teenager $10,000 "to carry something" from Cambodia.

The man mentioned that he knew where Vuong's aunt lived and so Vuong agreed to the

deal, saying he feared for the safety of his family.

On the flight to Cambodia he met Yen Karath, a 26-year-old Cambodian-Australian,

who took him to a hotel in Phnom Penh.

Over the next three weeks, Vuong stayed at two hotels and once went to Spark nightclub,

where he saw a man dressed in black whom he guessed was the supplier of the heroin.

Vuong told police that he once tried to use the Internet to get help from friends

but failed because of a problem with the computer.

On January 22, Vuong watched TV as Karath and another man believed to be Ek Samoeun,

47, ground cakes of heroin into powder with a blender, then used a laminating machine

to seal the drugs into flat packages.

"The he strap onto my body it was very tite [sic] I could just breathe,"

wrote Vuong in his statement to police, but this crucial line was later omitted from

the translation into Khmer used by the court.

When the flight was cancelled, Vuong and the men returned to the hotel before trying

again later that day.

While Vuong made it through an initial scan, which is only used to detect explosives

and dangerous goods in checked luggage, at a second security point immigration officials

noticed him moving awkwardly and stopped him.

He told police he had white powder strapped to him, that Karath had his passport,

and that he wanted the assistance of the Australian embassy.

Karath was also arrested at the airport.

Police arrested Samoeun at his house in Prek Ho, five kilometers from Phnom Penh.

Vuong was tried on April 22, in the presence of his mother and aunt. Although Karath

and Samoeun were brought into the courtroom, Vuong's lawyer said that no witnesses

were called and that the judge based his decision solely on documents from the police.

Kim Sophorn delivered the verdict May 3.

The other two men have not yet been tried.

Keosivin said an appeal had not yet been filed, because he was waiting for instructions

from Vuong's mother once the verdict had been translated from the original Khmer.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Siem Reap’s $18M zoo said to educate public, help wildlife

    Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium Co Ltd has invested $18 million in a zoo in Siem Reap province, which will be opened in October to educate and promote animal conservation as well as attract national and international tourists. Currently, the Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium is building the

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro

  • ACLEDA, WU to enable global money transfers

    Cambodia's largest commercial bank by total assets ACLEDA Bank Plc and global money transfer firm Western Union (WU) have partnered to offer customers cross-border money transfers to 200 countries via “ACLEDA mobile” app. In Channy, president and group managing director of ACLEDA, said the June 22 agreement

  • Aeon, Micromax partner again for third mall

    AEON Mall (Cambodia) Co Ltd and a locally-owned Micromax Co Ltd have entered into a partnership agreement to develop fibre optic infrastructure for $200 million Aeon Mall 3, which is expected to be opened in 2023. The agreement was signed on June 20 between Masayuki Tsuboya, managing director of