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Masked gunmen set Chinese drug trafficker free in raid at dental clinic

Chum Chenda Dental Clinic (Chum Chenda Dental Clinic/Released)
August 19, 2023

This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.

Five men wearing ski masks freed a Chinese drug lord after they charged into a dental clinic, pointed guns fitted with silencers at guards and then fled with the prisoner in a Lexus, authorities said Thursday.

Police in Siem Reap – home to the famous Angkor temples – were working to re-arrest Chen Hsin Han and find the others involved in the operation. 

The group apparently abandoned the Lexus, which was found several hours later with guns, masks, clothes and other materials left inside, Prison Department spokesman Nuth Savna said.

“The reason the suspects could free the prisoner was because they pointed guns at the guards,” he said. “If we fought they would shoot us.”

The gunmen tied up the four prison guards who had accompanied Chen to the clinic, according to the Khmer Times.

Chen, 45, was arrested in 2009 and later sentenced to 52 years for drug trafficking. He was being held at Siem Reap Prison near the provincial capital.

Chinese criminal groups run much of Cambodia’s human and drug trafficking, according to the Global Organized Crime Index report released in 2021.

“Many Chinese organized crime groups use Phnom Penh as a safe haven and invest heavily in legitimate businesses in the country,” the report said. “These international groups are usually connected with and protected by the ruling elite in Cambodia.”

Soeng Sen Karuna, spokesman for the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association NGO, asked why the prisoner was allowed to get treatment outside the prison. 

“The prison knew the prisoner was convicted to more than 50 years in jail. They should have been more careful,” he said. “There should be an investigation to find out whether there was collusion or not over the case.” 

Prison officials will try to determine if there are any additional suspects, Nuth Savna said.

RFA couldn’t reach Siem Reap police chief Teng Channath for comment on Thursday.