Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday questioned former deputy prime minister and Khmer National United Party president Nhek Bun Chhay over drug production accusations linked to a 2007 case in Kampong Speu province.
Investigating judge Ly Lipmeng questioned Mr Bun Chhay and his former personal adviser, Chea Chung, who was already convicted over the 2007 case and recently fingered his former boss as the ringleader.
In April 2007, a joint police force raided and confiscated about six tonnes of raw material used in drug production in Kampong Speu’s Phnom Sruoch district and in Phnom Penh. The authorities arrested 18 people during the raid, 14 Cambodians and four foreigners.
Court spokesman Suos Vithyearandy and judge Lipmeng confirmed the questioning but declined to comment further because the case remains under investigation.
“I am an investigating judge for this case, so I cannot comment,” said the judge.
Mr Bun Chhay was deputy commander in chief of the country’s military during the Funcinpec-CPP coalition government in 1993.
He was appointed as a deputy prime minister in 2004, but his title was altered to government adviser in 2013.
Last year, Mr Bun Chhay left Funcinpec to launch the KNUP, the only party other than the CPP and CNRP to win a commune in the June 4 commune elections.
In June 2017, the King granted Prime Minister Hun Sen’s request for Mr Bun Chhay to be stripped of his role as a government adviser following rumours he was working with the opposition CNRP.
Mr Chung, 52, sent a letter to the municipal court from his prison cell on July 31 informing the court that his former boss was indeed involved in the old drug production case.
In early August 2017, Mr Bun Chhay was placed in pre-trial detention over drug production and illegal importation of substances to produce drugs.
“Based on the information provided by prisoner Chea Chung, other documents and some evidence, as well as ongoing investigations into this case, the municipal court prosecutor found signs of crimes committed by Nhek Bun Chhay,” the court said.
Mr Chung – an adviser to Mr Bun Chhay when he was co-defence minister in the Funcinpec-CPP coalition government – was sentenced to 25 years over the 2007 drug case.
Ouk Vandeth, Mr Bun Chhay’s lawyer, said yesterday that he was present for the questioning on Friday.
“Mr Chung changed his answer,” Mr Vandeth claimed. “We are finding exculpatory evidence and witnesses.”