On Trial in Meth Case, Chinese Suspects Blame Interpreter

Two Chinese suspects in the largest methamphetamine seizure in Cambodian history denied involvement during their trial in Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday and accused their police-provided interpreter of misrepresenting their initial statements.

Ly Yong, 43, and Deng Yuan Ping, 53, were charged with drug production and distribution alongside a Cambodian couple after National Police confiscated nearly 55 kg of meth and heroin at a Russei Keo district apartment in June 2015. According to police, they admitted to conspiring with the Cambodians to dilute the drugs with mixing agents.

At court on Monday, however, Mr. Ly said he could not understand what their interpreter was saying to investigators—being unable to speak Khmer—and that when a statement was drawn up after the bust, he had been unable to verify its contents before being made to thumbprint it.

“I did not commit the crime like the interpreter [said], because the interpreter incorrectly quoted me,” Mr. Ly told Presiding Judge Pech Vicheathor, again speaking through an interpreter, this time provided by the court.

“Police did not confiscate the drugs from my person,” he added. “I don’t know about the drugs. I swear, if I did commit the crime, please let me die.”

He said that he and Mr. Deng only knew the Cambodian suspects—Liv Soeu, 43, and his girlfriend Phal Rany, 24—from dining at their restaurant in Chamkar Mon district, after first meeting Mr. Soeu at NagaWorld casino.

Mr. Deng also said the police interpreter had misrepresented his testimony.

“Police found a small package of drugs” on me, he added, explaining that the package contained crystal meth.

“Those drugs belonged to me, but I kept them for personal use,” he said. “I have a brain tumor. I have pain in my head and when I use the drugs, it gets better.”

San Sothy, deputy director of the anti-drug department at the Interior Ministry, which oversees the National Police, told the court that the Chinese men were lying.

“We conducted this case according to the procedure,” he said. “When we finished questioning them, we read [the statement]for them to listen and we asked them to thumbprint it.”

Through their investigation, police discovered that a fifth, previously unidentifiied suspect was the leader of the drug trafficking ring that smuggled the meth and heroin into Cambodia from the Golden Triangle, Major General Sothy added.

He identified the man as Dam Nha. On trial earlier this month, Ms. Rany said Mr. Nha, a rubber farmer, was her lover, and that he kept the drugs at their shared apartment without her knowledge. During the same hearing, she said she falsely implicated herself and her boyfriend after discovering that he too was having an affair.

“We have enough evidence and documents” to prove the guilt of all five suspects, Maj. Gen. Sothy said on Monday.

Deputy prosecutor Ngin Pich, however, said he would only push for a conviction of the original four, leaving Judge Vicheathor to decide whether to proceed with prosecuting Mr. Nha, who was at large.

A verdict is due on August 18.

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