Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - ‘Uranium’ trafficking case delayed by court

‘Uranium’ trafficking case delayed by court

‘Uranium’ trafficking case delayed by court

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday again delayed a hearing on the bizarre “uranium” smuggling case that involved four people because results of tests on the material in question were unclear to the judge.

In August 2016, four men were found in possession of what police believed was uranium, despite the fact that the material was in liquid form and being contained in plastic bottles. Uranium enters a liquid state at 1,132 degrees Celsius. Police have not yet explained why they thought it was uranium.

“In the case against Chea Yu, Chan Thoeun, Tit Raksmey and Dy Vibol, the results of the test on the substance are still unclear. The officials who conducted the tests have not yet shared their thoughts on the results to the court.
“Therefore the court has decided to delay the hearing to a later date. We will invite technical officials from the Ministry of Interior to participate in the trial,” Judge Seng Leang said at the hearing.

The four defendants have been in pre-trial detention since their arrest in August 2016 in the capital’s Por Sen Chey district, where they met to check on a substance they claimed to be a type of acid used to test gold.

However, police suspected the substance was uranium and was in the process of being trafficked to an unknown agent to produce a radioactive weapon.

They were then charged in the Phnom Penh court with processing and conspiring to sell a substance used to produce chemical, nuclear, biological or radioactive weapons in violation of Article 27 of the Law on the Prohibition of Chemical, Nuclear, Biological and Radiological Weapons.

They face between five to 10 years imprisonment if found guilty.

Mysterious substance

In the previous hearings, the accused said they were told to sell the substance imported from Vietnam and find buyers for it. They said the substance was an acid to test gold and costs $400,000 a litre.

Eng Sothea, Chanthoeun’s defence lawyer, said the test results had been read in court two weeks ago and he failed to understand why a further postponement was required.

“The test was done by the National Authority for Chemical Weapons. The results showed that the substance was not radioactive. It was only a strong acid . . . I think that a delay to await clarification from those who tested it is not necessary. They will only confirm what we already know,” Sothea said.

An angry Sothea said that delaying the hearing affects the rights of his client and he called for the judge to drop the charge or at least change the charge to transporting a forbidden acid, which would only involve a fine for his client if he were to be found guilty.

“My client and the other defendants are being treated unjustly, being detained for no crime, and no [court official] will be held responsible for their loss of freedom and the time they lost during their detention,” Sothea said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Government hits back at threats to pull EBA, suspend UN seat

    The spokesman for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has said the government is in no way concerned after the European Parliament gave it three months to reverse what it called the “systematic repression of the political opposition”. Ignoring the ultimatum could mean facing

  • Chinese influx pushing locals, Westerners out of Preah Sihanouk

    Some within the Kingdom’s tourism industry have speculated that the recent influx of Chinese visitors may hinder domestic tourism as the price of accommodations in the coastal city of Sihanoukville continues to rise. Preah Sihanouk province, which has become a hotbed for Chinese investment

  • Sar Kheng: Sokha requested security

    Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Sunday revealed the story behind the transfer of former opposition party leader Kem Sokha from Trapaing Phlong prison in Tbong Khmum province to his house in the capital. Speaking at the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) headquarters in Prey

  • ‘Dire consequences’ from sanctions, warns AmCham

    American businesspeople in Cambodia have warned that any sanction against the Kingdom would have “dire consequences” that could push Cambodia even further into the arms of China. In a letter to US senators and representatives dated Monday, the American Chamber of Commerce Cambodia (AmCham) said