Small party president and former general Nhek Bun Chhay had charges of drug production and procurement of precursors dropped by a Phnom Penh court this week, in a case dating back to 2007.
Bun Chhay, who heads the royalist Khmer Nation United Party, was arrested in August 2017 for conspiracy to produce drugs and importing drug components in relation to a drug bust from 2007, where 2 tons of precursor including 400 to 500 kilograms of chloroephedrine from Phnom Sruoch district in Kampong Speu.
The former Funcinpec general was released in April 2018 and placed under court supervision for the last four years.
According to a court document, the drugs were found at the farm of Chea Chung, a former adviser to Bun Chhay. Chung was sentenced to 25 years in prison. But in 2017, Chung implicated Bun Chhay as the mastermind of the operation because he wanted to “get justice.”
However, the court document said that investigators were unable to inculpate Bun Chhay, and there was no evidence or witness to support allegations that the former general had initiated meetings with people involved in the alleged drug activity.
Oum Somontha, the party’s deputy president, said on Thursday that it was a relief to the party that Bun Chhay was free from the charges.
“We do not want retaliation and let bygones be bygones. He does not want to complain about it and wants to end it right here,” Somontha said.
At the time, speculation was rife that the arrest was allegedly linked to a purported leaked phone call between Bun Chhay and former CNRP vice president Eang Chhai Eng, where the former promised to offer votes to the CNRP in communes that the KNUP was not contesting.
Somontha said the call was a misunderstanding because Bun Chhay thought he was talking to someone named Y Kim Eng and not Chhay Eng.
The KNUP is contesting the upcoming commune election and will have candidates in 617 constituencies across 25 provinces.