Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday charged former deputy prime minister and Khmer National United Party president Nhek Bunchhay with conspiring to produce drugs in Kampong Speu province in 2007.
Court spokesman Suos Vithyearandy said Mr Bunchhay had been placed in pre-trial detention in connection with drug production and illegal importing of substances to produce drugs.
In June, the King granted the Prime Minister Hun Sen’s request for Mr Bunchhay to be stripped of his role as a government adviser following rumours that he was working with the opposition CNRP.
Yesterday’s drug charges stem from accusations levelled against Mr Bunchhay by his former personal adviser, Chea Chung, who was arrested and imprisoned over the 2007 drug production case in which Mr Bunchhay was initially cleared.
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.
“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 Bunchhay,” the court said.
Mr Chung – an adviser to Mr Bunchhay when he was co-defence minister in the Funcinpec-CPP coalition government – was sentenced to 25 years over the 2007 drug case.
Police raided Mr Bunchhay’s home for two hours on Friday after he was arrested on Thursday.
Eng Sorphea, serious crime bureau chief in charge of the case, declined to comment and said he was simply implementing a court search warrant.
KNUP spokesman Run Meatra and Sam Sokong, a lawyer for Mr Bunhhay, could not be reached for comment.
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.
Mr Bunchhay was put in charge 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 Bunchhay left Funcinpec to launch the KNUP, the only party other than the CPP and CNRP to win a commune in the recent June 4 commune elections.