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Seeking to avoid execution in Vietnam: Cambodian woman appeals conviction

Ben Sokhean / Khmer Times Share:
Miech Srey Neang faces a panel of judges in a Vietnamese court. The Cambodian government has helped her to file an appeal against a death sentence for trafficking drugs. Thanh Niên

A Cambodian drug trafficker who was sentenced to death in Vietnam has appealed against her conviction after getting legal assistance from the Cambodian government.

Koy Kuong, spokesman for Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told Khmer Times recently that Miech Srey Neang had appealed against the Vietnamese lower court decision.

“She has already appealed. Please ask the Ministry of Justice on what else can be done to help her,” he said.

Srey Neang, 27, from Phnom Penh was convicted and sentenced to death by Vietnam’s Tay Ninh Provincial People’s Court on July 31 after being found guilty of trafficking drugs from Cambodia to Vietnam. She was accused of smuggling five bags of methamphetamine weighing about five kilogrammes.

Kuong said Srey Neang had appealed to the higher court within the 15 days given to her.

“They allowed her to appeal within 15 days after the Tay Ninh Provincial People’s Court convicted her on July 31,” he said. “I just know that she has appealed but do not know the details.”

In a recent speech, Minister of Justice Keut Rith said the ministry will also consider requesting the Vietnamese government to implement the transfer of convicted inmates treaty after a final verdict in Srey Neang’s case.

“The Ministry of Justice is seeking to ensure legal protection for her and working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to implement the bilateral [prisoners exchange agreement with Vietnam] to ensure that the death penalty is waived,” Rith said.

The National Assembly in March last year adopted a draft law on the transfer of convicted inmates treaty between Cambodia and Vietnam. The bill is the first-ever of such treaty Cambodia would have with a foreign nation.

Chin Malin, a Ministry of Justice spokesman, said yesterday the government is still working closely on the case.

Justice Minister Keut Rith says Cambodia will consider asking Vietnam to implement the transfer of inmates treaty. KT/Siv Channa

“The Ministry of Justice is working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the case. We will publicly announce the result of our measures in due course,” he said.

The Cambodian Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City could not be reached for comment on the case yesterday.

According to a Vietnamese media report, Vietnamese customs officers arrested Srey Neang “red-handed” carrying the drugs at the Moc Bai International Border gate in southern Tay Ninh province on December 2 last year.

She was accused of smuggling methamphetamine weighing over 4.9 kilogrammes, which were found when her luggage was scanned upon entry.

Legal expert Sok Sam Oeun said yesterday the government should implement the transfer of convicted inmates treaty to save Srey Neang’s life if her verdict was final. He said the government needs to ensure both legal and political intervention in the case.

“The better way is to request for her transfer so she could serve her prison sentence in Cambodia,” he said. “Another option is to find a way to reduce her sentence [in Vietnam].”

“She is a Khmer citizen, so we have the right to request she be allowed to serve her sentence here. We are unable to extradite her to convict her here because the Vietnamese court has already done so,” he added. “Any intervention must be done fast.”

Sam Oeun, who is also the chief attorney of the AMRIN Law and Consultants Group, said Srey Neang could serve a life sentence in prison if she is transferred to Cambodia. He cites Article 32 of the Constitution which states: “All people have the right to life, freedom and personal security. There shall be no capital punishment.”

“If the Vietnamese court upholds her death sentence, then our Supreme Court here can review it and convert to a life term,” he added.

Ho Chi Minh City-based newspaper Thanh Niên, recently reported that during the investigation, Srey Neang admitted in October last year, via Facebook, that she had known another Cambodian woman named “Ly Na”.

It said that on November 30, 2019, Ly Na went to Srey Neang’s house and hired her to carry a suitcase from Cambodia to Vietnam in exchange for $100.

According to Vietnamese law, anyone convicted of smuggling over 600 grammes of heroin or more than 2.5 kilogrammes of methamphetamine will face the death sentence. Those caught making or trafficking 100 grammes of heroin or 300 grammes of other illegal drugs also face the death sentence upon conviction.

 

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