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Key Drug Suspect Plunges to His Death as Potential Ringleader Held

A key suspect in one of Cambodia's biggest drug cases fell to his death Tuesday morning from the window of the anti-drugs department building where he was being questioned, police said.

Police ruled the death of Oum Chhay a suicide and said his death made building their case against an alleged methamphetamine production ring more difficult.

"The authorities regret the event, because he did give some answers," said Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak. "We are continuing our work, but losing Mr. Oum Chhay makes our investigation incomplete. The confession of the victim in his answers [to our interrogation] could have helped us finish our work."

Om Chhay lept from the building when the policemen who were watching him took a break to use the toilet, Khieu Sopheak said.

Oum Chhay was arrested last week on charges stemming from a drugs-lab raid by national police earlier this year in Kampong Speu, which netted four tons of materials from a so-called "super lab" for methamphetamines.

Rights workers and journalists complained immediately they were not being given access to information or the body to independently confirm Oum Chhay's cause of death.

In fact, there were several questionable circumstances surrounding the case, said Chan Saveth a human rights investigator for the group Adhoc.

Oum Chhay was reported in the local media as an adviser to National Assembly President Heng Samrin, who is also the honorary president of the ruling Cambodian People's Party.

Police also late Tuesday they had arrested another highly sought suspect, Chea Chong. He was being held Tuesday at Prey Sar prison in Phnom Penh pending drug-production charges, police said.