Taiwanese drug lord, 10 others, arrested for dental clinic raid

Bulk of suspects have yet to be charged after nearly a week in jail.
By RFA Khmer
Taiwanese drug lord, 10 others, arrested for dental clinic raid Police in Cambodia hold a press conference with some of the suspects arrested in connection with the escape of a Taiwanese drug lord from custody last week while he was at a Siem Reap dental clinic, Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023.
Credit: General Commissariat of National Police

A Taiwanese drug lord serving a 52-year-prison sentence who was freed in a brazen raid last week was rearrested on Tuesday, according to Cambodian authorities. 

Lt. Gen. Mak Chito, deputy national police commissioner in charge of drug crimes, told RFA that Chen Hsin Han was arrested in a Phnom Penh housing complex following tips from witnesses and suspects.

"We have prepared additional plans. We haven't concluded the operation yet,” he said. “We have learned of new suspects and we are investigating them. We will continue to arrest more suspects.”

Chen, in prison since 2009 on drug trafficking charges, escaped on the morning of Aug. 17 after five armed assailants burst into a Siem Reap dental clinic, handcuffing the prison guards who had brought him there for treatment. 

The following day six Cambodian American men and one Chinese American woman were arrested in two locations in Phnom Penh on suspicion of helping Chen escape. 

In a press conference Tuesday, police said a total of 11 people were arrested including a Saudi national who allegedly had passed along information that helped in the raid and a Chinese national believed to have provided funds for food and accommodation  . 

"They organized as a group including those who prepared weapons for them. We know where they bought the weapon from," said Mak Chito. He said that six more Turkish suspects are on the run. 

Though none of the group have yet been charged, police widely circulated a handout naming the seven who were arrested last week as Chloe Yinrong, Phev Praseth Seth, In Channty, Savy Savuth, Som David, Rem Sophal and Frost Sarath Sean. 

Chen Hsin Han, who was in prison for drug trafficking in Cambodia, is seen in custody in this undated photo. Credit: Fresh News

Seeking defense lawyers

Mak Chito said the U.S. Embassy had visited the suspects. He admitted eight of the 11 suspects have been detained without charge beyond the 48-hour limit, saying it was due to their lack of defense lawyers. 

Sophea Sean, sister of Frost Sarath Sean, told RFA that her family — all of whom live in the United States — had been struggling to obtain a lawyer remotely with little knowledge of Cambodia. 

“He is a loving brother, son and friend. Everyone who knows him knows he doesn’t get in trouble with the law. He doesn’t have a criminal background,” she wrote in a text message.

Sophea Sean said she and her family believe her brother was rounded up with the others possibly because he was staying in the same hotel when the police came. She noted that her brother, who works as a casual longshoreman in San Pedro, is “pretty well off financially so that wouldn’t be a motivation for him.” 

“Me, my family and friends are 100% sure that he is innocent. He was not involved in that crime. I hope that Cambodian officials only convict people on factual evidence.”

At Tuesday’s press conference, nine of the suspects were lined up for photos, during which time Chloe Yinrong shouted that the arrests were a “scam.”

“It’s not true!” she exclaimed, CamboJA reported, citing a live broadcast of the conference posted by state-run Bayon TV that has since been removed. 

“It’s a scam,” she shouted. “Do you really believe they hired all these people to rescue someone?”

Taiwanese court documents uncovered by RFA Investigative revealed that as recently as 2020 Chen was conducting drug smuggling operations from prison through outside associates. Fellow inmates interviewed by CamboJA spoke of immense bribery that allowed Chen numerous perks and wide scale influence behind bars.  

Am Sam Ath, deputy director of rights group Licadho, told RFA there were many suspicious elements to the case and urged authorities to conduct a transparent investigation to find those who were behind Chen's escape. 

He pointed out that while political prisoners are rarely granted outside medical care despite suffering serious conditions, those with the means to pay for it suffer no such restrictions. 

"This is a lesson for authorities, especially for the prison department to organize forces for criminals during medical treatment," he said.

Translated by Yun Samean. Additional reporting by Abby Seiff. Edited by Malcolm Foster. 


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