Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Families ‘shocked’ at arms smuggling case




Families ‘shocked’ at arms smuggling case

Chan Aun, 31, the wife of arms smuggling suspect Chim Lin, sits with Chim Lea, wife of fellow suspect Yim Savy, on Wednesday in Banteay Meanchey province. The two said they were shocked and do not believe the charges against their husbands.
Chan Aun, 31, the wife of arms smuggling suspect Chim Lin, sits with Chim Lea, wife of fellow suspect Yim Savy, on Wednesday in Banteay Meanchey province. The two said they were shocked and do not believe the charges against their husbands. Heng Chivoan

Families ‘shocked’ at arms smuggling case

The Thais set the rendezvous point just beyond the stream that separates Cambodia’s Sangke village from Thailand. In darkness and rain, a third shipment of weapons allegedly collected and hidden at home by Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) staffer Ub Vireak crossed the international border from Banteay Meanchey province into Thailand’s Sa Kaeo province and was loaded into waiting vans.

Not long after, in the early hours of July 18, the ordnance, including three mortar tubes and as many rounds, would be discovered by Thai authorities. Five Thai nationals, the alleged transporters, were arrested on the spot at a petrol station in Sa Kaeo.

By last Friday, police in Cambodia had also arrested the 48-year-old Vireak, and two farmers – both Vireak’s brothers-in-law – from the neighbouring Battambang province, while Thai authorities near the border with Myanmar seized a sixth suspect, who is accused of ordering the shipment from Cambodia.

Speaking this week, the wives of Vireak’s two brothers-in-law – Chim Lin, 36, and Yim Savy, 38 – said they were “shocked” by the arrests and claimed they had never met their husbands’ co-accused, whose property in Battambang town’s O’Char commune now stands gated and locked.

“I do not believe my husband has done this,” said Savy’s wife, 28-year-old Chim Lea, speaking at the couple’s 4-hectare cassava farm in Battambang’s Phnom Proek district.

“He goes to work and comes home, sometimes a little late, but he always comes home,” she added, explaining that the couple had two children, and that Savy and often worked as a hired farmhand in the area to make ends meet.

Yet Banteay Meanchey Penal Crime Office Director Phoeurng Mansing said the pair had acted as the “brokers” in the arms smuggling operation, helping to find buyers for the ordnance stashed by Vireak.

Mansing said he believed Vireak had found a large cache of “thousands” of weapons stored underground by the Khmer Rouge during the course of his work clearing forests of ordnance for CMAC, and decided to keep some for himself, stashing it under the metal and wood roofing of his home.

“He was in charge of destroying the weapons but when found the new weapons, he did not destroy them, and he kept them for selling,” Mansing said.

“The weapons that were confiscated were old, but he painted them to look new.”

Vireak linked up with a buyer in Thailand through Lin, according to Mansing, who said that the group had previously arranged two shipments that included about 10 AK-47s each without being arrested.

“He used to go and eat rice at [Lin’s] house. They knew each other,” he said. “Later on, with the weapons hidden, he asked Lin who wanted to buy them, and Lin knew Thais who wanted to buy them.”

Speaking from her home in Sampov Loun district, Lin’s wife, Chan Aun, 31, said she did not believe her husband had any such contacts in Thailand. The pair owned a 10-hectare farm, she said, and spent most of their time cultivating mangoes and cassava to support their three children.

“He has never been to Thailand,” Aun said of her husband, whose Nissan pickup truck was seized by police as part of the case.

“He uses the car to carry workers to the farm. I asked him [about the claims], but he did not answer. When they came to arrest him I thought I was dreaming,” she added.

The trio have been charged with weapons trafficking by a Banteay Meanchey provincial prosecutor, while police continue to hunt for at least four other people allegedly also involved in transporting the arms.

MOST VIEWED

  • First Khmer woman to pass out of West Point

    The life of a soldier certainly isn’t for everyone. The training is gruelling, the hours long and there’s no room for excuses. On top of that, soldiers must be ready to respond to sudden threats at a moment’s notice. Just ask Sithyka

  • Tourists urged not to skip trip

    The Ministry of Tourism has called on international tourists not to cancel trips to Cambodia, but urged them to adhere to several dos and don’ts when arriving in the Kingdom during the Covid-19 pandemic. The ministry released an eight-point instruction manual on Wednesday published

  • The taxman cometh – Cambodia’s capital gains tax casts the net on individual taxpayers

    In a country where only limited personal income tax existed, the new taxation law beginning January 1, 2021, will make taxpayers out of Cambodians, whether they are ready for it or not About two years ago, a little known amendment was made to Article 7 of the Law

  • Cambodian-American gets Star Trek treatment

    Kevin Ung, a Cambodian-American whose family escaped genocide during the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror, was recently selected from thousands of applicants to participate in the Television Academy Foundation’s inaugural 2020 Star Trek Command Training Programme, a course intended to give hands-on filmmaking experience

  • Cambodia seeks to be transport hub

    Cambodia is working on several fronts to modernise its transport infrastructure and services, concentrating on opening new international gates to relieve and balance traffic congestion at its borders, Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol said on Thursday. This is part of the Kingdom’

  • Deminers unearth ancient lion statue

    Cambodia Mine Action Centre (CMAC) director-general Heng Ratana told The Post on Tuesday that a statue of a lion was found by mine clearance experts while they were digging for a development project. It was sent to the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts last