Chinese Drug ‘Mastermind’ Prisoner Escapes During Hospital Visit

2 min read
People walk in and out of the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital in Phnom Penh on March 19, 2020. (Chorn Chanren/VOD)

A Chinese inmate of Prey Sar prison, described as a drug “mastermind,” escaped from the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital on Sunday night while awaiting surgery, officials said.

He Yi Ri was arrested in June last year and has been linked to two drug seizures totaling more than 2 tons of heroin, ketamine, MDMA, and other drugs and drug precursor chemicals.

In Song, deputy director of the National Police’s anti-drug department, said authorities were now hunting for He, who was considered a “mastermind” behind the drug crimes.

Provincial, municipal and border police, including those at airports and waterways, had been alerted about his escape, Song said.

“We consider this target to be very important and dangerous,” he said, adding that he did not know the details of the escape.

“A criminal has many tricks when we have a little carelessness or loophole,” Song said.

His case had yet to go to trial and was still in the hands of the investigating judge, he added.

“It was difficult and we worked many months to arrest him,” Song said.

Yin Kun, director of Prey Sar prison’s Correctional Center 1, said the accused was frequently sick and taken to hospital.

He had already been at the hospital for nearly a month during the latest visit, and was about to have surgery, Kun said, though he did not know the details of the illness.

Three people were on guard to watch He, the prison director added.

“I’ve asked my specialists to investigate how he escaped,” Kun said.

According to National Police, the anti-drug department arrested four men — He, Lee Shaofeng, Zhang Jun and Cai Tao — on June 7 over 8.7 kg of drugs seized in Phnom Penh. He was further linked to a drug haul of more than 2 tons in October at three locations in Sihanoukville and four locations in the capital. The later seizure included 189 kg of heroin, National Police said.

Phnom Penh Municipal Police spokesperson San Sokseyha said his officers would be cooperating in the manhunt.

Amid the Interior Ministry’s ongoing anti-drugs campaign, arrests rose about 5 percent last year and seizures ballooned four-fold. The U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime has said that illegal drugs are becoming cheaper, purer and more widely available, including record-low prices for meth, attributed to organized crime and ineffective control of precursors in the region.

In 2016, convicted terrorist Som Ek escaped from the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital when visiting relatives fed guards rice and cake apparently spiked with sleeping pills. Ek was rearrested 16 days later and given two additional years on his prison sentence in 2019, the Khmer Times reported.

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