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Groups: Sentence Too Light in Drug Conviction

A Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentence for a man accused of running an extensive drug ring was too light, groups said. Chea Chong was sentenced to 25 years and was fined $25,000.

“I would request that the sentence be at the maximum level because the crime of circulating and producing illegal drugs is an international crime,” said Keo Remy, vice president of the Human Rights Party. “This kind of crime deserves the death penalty in some neighboring countries. So, the court should thus sentence the criminals to at least life imprisonment as our constitution does not have capital punishment.”

Chea Chong was the suspected leader of a drug production ring busted in Kampong Speu in April, when police found nearly 5 tons of drug-making materials.

“If we compare [the sentence] to neighboring countries, our court did not do the right job,” said Thun Saray, director of the human rights group Adhoc, “because in those countries for even 20 grams of drugs the criminal receives capital punishment.”

Rights groups do not want capital punishment, he said, but punishment to fit the crime.

Three accomplices were given similar prison sentences, and a fourth, who was to have received life in prison, escaped, officials said.

A prime suspect in the case reportedly jumped out a window to his death in August 2007.

“The court’s sentencing of the largest ring of drug-producing and circulating criminals in Kompong Speu seems unclear and suspicious, because the case is so big, yet the criminals are not high-ranking officials, but ordinary people, and received light punishment,” said Eng Chhay Eang, secretary-general of the Sam Rainsy Party. “The case must be investigated further, and the criminals must be punished more heavily.”