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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Fugitive police chief deported to Cambodia from Malaysia

The Associated Press
Thursday, December 21, 2006

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia
A former police chief convicted of masterminding the murder of a judge began serving his prison term in Cambodia on Thursday after being deported from Malaysia where he lost a court ruling, police said.

Heng Peo "is now in Prey Sar prison starting the first day of his 18 years (in jail). His escape is over," said police Lt. Gen. Khieu Sopheak, a spokesman for Cambodia's Interior Ministry.
Cambodia had sought custody of Heng Peo, who was sentenced in absentia to 18 years in jail on charges of organizing the murder of a judge in April 2003. Heng Peo has said he was wrongly accused.

A Malaysian High Court on Dec. 15 ordered his deportation to Singapore, from where Heng Peo had hoped to fly to safety in Finland. But Malaysia's Appeals Court overturned that ruling on Thursday on the grounds that only the Immigration Department can decide where a foreigner should be deported.Heng Peo arrived in Cambodia on a special flight from Malaysia, said Lt. Gen. Sok Phal, a deputy national police chief.

Security was tight near the Phnom Penh Municipal Court where Heng Peo was taken for processing soon after he arrived. Outside the court, more than 100 police equipped with rifles stood guard.Heng Peo was later driven in a heavily guarded police convoy to a prison on the outskirts of the capital.

Before his deportation, Heng Peo pleaded with Malaysian immigration authorities not to send him to Cambodia."In Cambodia I can die because I have a political problem with the government," he told The Associated Press after the verdict."If you send me, I sure will die, 100 percent," Heng Peo said in his first public comments since his arrest in Malaysia in October for overstaying his visa.

Outside the court after the verdict, Heng Peo's wife held his hand and wailed as he was led to a van. Heng Peo, dressed in a T-shirt and gray pants, walked with a limp and was helped into the vehicle by immigration officials."Please tell the world. Don't send my husband to Cambodia," cried his wife, Ngin Sotheavy. "Let him go to Finland."

Earlier this month, Finland granted Heng Peo a visa to travel there because of fears that he might face violations of his rights if deported to Cambodia. The visa does not allow him to travel elsewhere in the European Union.

Heng Peo's lawyer, N. Sivananthan, accused Malaysian immigration authorities of "abusing their powers" by deporting him before an appeal could be filed against Thursday's verdict.
"This is a miscarriage of justice. The authorities seem to have been bending over backward to please the Cambodian government," Sivananthan said.

Finland's Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja appealed "to the Cambodian authorities to carry out a full investigation into the charges against former police chief Heng Peo ... and to guarantee him a fair trial," a statement from the Foreign Ministry said.
Heng Peo was Phnom Penh's police chief until 2005, when he was promoted to become an adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen. He also served as an undersecretary in the Interior Ministry.

Heng Peo is also accused of links to the killing of a Singaporean man in Cambodia, and failed murder attempts against a newspaper publisher, an electricity authority official and the national military police chief.
Read more!

Vietnam-Cambodia border gate upgraded to national level

The Khanh Binh-Chray Thum border gates, which lie in the border line between southern An Giang province of Vietnam and Kandal province of Cambodia, has been upgraded to national border gates of both countries.
A ceremony to announce this decision was held in Korthom distric, Kandal province on December 20 in the presence of representatives from the governments of Cambodia and Vietnam, and local people.

The Khanh Binh border gate area covers 74, 12 sq. km. Over the past five years, import-export turnover via the gate reached US $77 million.
In anticipation of the upgrade, the authorities of An Giang province have launched a project to build the Khanh Binh border gate economic zone, which comprise an industrial, commercial and service complex and residential areas.

The province plans to advise the government to build a bridge linking An Giang and Kandal provinces, facilitating smooth travel from An Giang to Phnom Penh.
On this occasion, Cambodia presented three former leaders of An Giang province with friendship medals. (VNA) Read more!