Kith Theang was charged by Phnom Penh Municipal Court late on Monday and sent to the capital’s Police Judiciare (PJ) prison over the nearly 50kg of drugs found in a February 23 raid by authorities on the Rock Entertainment Centre he owns.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge Seng Leang ordered the detention of Theang on the charges of “arranging and facilitating the illegal use of addictive substances, and conspiracy” under Articles 42 and 44 of the Law on the Control of Drugs and Article 29 of the Criminal Code.
Seventeen others have also been charged and detained in the high-profile case, while more than 300 drug users were released shortly after the bust.
“The court is working further in regards to other relevant people in the case,” Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesman Y Rin said on Tuesday.
Authorities escorted Theang from his house in the capital’s Tuol Kork district to the Phnom Penh Municipal Police headquarters on Monday evening as per a court warrant ordering he be taken in for questioning.
Theang’s arrest came only a few hours after Prime Minister Hun Sen, speaking to more than 3,000 students at a Royal University of Law and Economics graduation ceremony, said that the Rock would be shut down over the drugs haul, while the masterminds behind it would not be able to escape justice.
“The Ministry of Interior will continue with its actions in this case together with thorough court procedures to ensure the non-recurrence of such indecent acts as found [in the Rock]. The search for the whereabouts of the masterminds [must continue] and those involved must be seriously punished,” Hun Sen said.
Minister of Interior Sar Kheng on Tuesday said: “The authorities must resolve the Rock case as – because almost 50kg of drugs were found – it is a huge issue. If we don’t, what will happen to our society?
“And it is related to those responsible for the place [the drugs were found]. They are the ones to be held responsible because many citizens have been victims of this issue. So I want to say that we have not yet found all those responsible.”
Mok Chito, the deputy National Police chief and deputy secretary-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD), said on Tuesday that he had not received information from the court as to its decision to charge Theang.
“The authorities are searching for more relevant perpetrators but I cannot reveal further procedure,” he said.
Adhoc spokesman Soeung Sen Karuna said it was only after public reaction and Prime Minister Hun Sen speaking on the matter that the relevant officials took action against such a wealthy and influential person.
He said he applauded the move and hoped the authorities would continue to search for others involved in the case and take action against other such locations as drugs had ruined the lives of many young Cambodian.
“With this type of action, we don’t want it to only happen once and then everything goes quiet. We want it to continue because our law states that those who are guilty must be punished in accordance with the law. Consequently, the search must continue for more of the guilty to be punished,” Sen Karuna said.
The PJ prison is housed in two buildings in Phnom Penh Municipal Police headquarters in the capital’s Russey Keo district. Imprisoned within the facility are drug dealers, tycoons and their scions – widely known to be prisoners with connections and wealth – who have fallen foul of the law.
Article 44 of the Law on the Control of Drugs states that “facilitating the illegal use of addictive substances, the act of renting out or providing a place or other acts that facilitate the use of illegal additive substances listed . . . must be punished by one to five years in prison, with an additional a fine of between two million and 10 million riel ($500-2,500)”.