Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday tried a Cambodian-Lao man who allegedly trafficked more than 56 kilograms of methamphetamine and heroin from Laos to stock and distribute in Phnom Penh last year.
Presiding Judge Pich Vicheathor identified the accused as Luon Sopha, 31, living in Stung Treng province along the Cambodian-Lao border. He was charged with drug trafficking and faces a life sentence if convicted.
Judge Vicheathor said that Mr Sopha was arrested on May 17 last year in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district, where police seized the drugs from his two rental houses in the city.
He noted that another suspect, Cambodian-Lao Sy Lakhory, 42, was also arrested in connection with the crime on May 19 but died of AIDS in prison in August last year.
Colonel Phoeun Mao, an anti-drug trafficking police chief at the Interior Ministry, told the court that Luon Sopha belonged to a drug ring and regularly transported drugs from Stung Treng by taxi to stock at his rental houses.
He said that an undercover police officer contacted him and asked him to deliver two kilograms of crystal meth in May to Sen Sok district, where he paid $50,000 for the drugs.
“He was a known drug trafficker,” Col Mao noted. “ Our undercover officer spent more than two months negotiating with him to buy the two kilograms of crystal meth.”
“He was arrested inside his car while I was counting the money paid by the undercover officer after he took delivery of the drugs,” he added.
Col Mao said that police seized the drugs and the $50,000 from the accused after arresting him.
He noted that after his arrest, police took Luon Sopha to inspect his rental houses, one located in the Sen Sok district’s Phnom Penh Thmey commune and another in Daun Penh district’s Phsar Thmey II commune.
Col Mao said that police seized more than 56 kilograms of methamphetamine and 15 kilograms of heroin which he had stocked in both houses for distribution in the city.
He said that during his interrogation, Mr Sopha told police that Mr Lakhory was an accomplice and police arrested him at the Ratanak Sambath Hotel in Ratanakkiri province on May 19.
Col Mao noted that police seized more two kilograms of crystal meth and a land cruiser from Mr Lakhory.
He added that after his arrest, Mr Lakhory was sent to Prey Sar prison pending his trial but he died of AIDS on August 22.
During yesterday’s trial, Mr Sopha admitted committing the offence, but insisted that he was only a middleman for the drug ring.
He claimed that the drugs seized from his houses belonged to Mr Lakhory and that he was paid a salary to store them.
He added that he started working for Mr Lakhory in January last year and was paid $20,000 per month.
“The reason why I took the risk to do this work was because I was poor and needed money to support my family,” he said. “I also needed to pay for surgery in Laos after suffering injuries in a car accident.”
A verdict is due on October 2.