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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Radio Free Asia

Cambodia Charges 16 Crewmembers Suspected of Violating North Korea Sanctions

2020-03-05 -- Authorities in Cambodia Thursday officially charged 16 crewmembers of a ship suspected in breaking sanctions on North Korea that anchored in Cambodian waters last week after being expelled from Taiwan.

The Courageous, a Cameroonian-registered tanker, is believed to have engaged in ship-to-ship transfers of oil and other banned goods to North Korea in violation of UNSC resolutions 2375 and 2397, which established sanctions on Pyongyang that would limit North Korea's ability to acquire cash and resources to funnel into its nuclear program.

The 16 crewmembers were charged by Sihanoukville Provincial Court Judge Kuon Chantha with violating both Article 29 of Cambodia's Immigration Law, which forbids entering Cambodia clandestinely or by fraud or through any illegal means; and Articles 11 and 74 of the Law on Customs, which forbids smuggling.

A court document issued Thursday states that the court will not detain the crew, instead allowing them to remain on their ship, which cannot leave Cambodian waters.

A reconstruction of the path taken by the tanker ship MT Courageous over the past year before it was seized by Cambodian authorities at the port of Sihanoukville on Feb. 28. Cambodia police have said the Courageous encroached on Cambodian waters and is suspected of violating U.N. resolutions for transferring cargo with North Korean ships. The vessel passed by the coast of China's Zhejiang province on Sept 4, 2019. It can also be seen entering and exiting the Taiwanese port of Kaoshsiung around Dec 15. It was finally seized off the southern coast of Cambodia and taken to Sihanoukville. Credit: MarineTraffic.com

An official of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) told RFA's Khmer Service that the charges were not strong enough.

"The charges are light. If the ship could get away from the police, it could be very dangerous to the country since [the crew's] intention was to act in deliberate violation of the UN Security Council's decision [on North Korea]," said Cheap Sotheary, ADHOC's provincial coordinator for Sihanoukville.

Police Spokesman Chay Kim Khoeun, told RFA that the ship was detained for violating Cambodian sovereignty.

"The person in charge of the ship said it was Cameroonian and they had recently departed Taiwan," said Chay.

He added that while investigating the ship for its illegal entry into Cambodian territory, they became aware that it was suspected the ship-to-ship transfers with North Korea.

In a statement Sunday, the General Commissariat of National Police said the vessel was found to be illegally anchored in Cambodian waters between Koh Tang and Koh Poulo Wai, uninhabited islands in the Gulf of Siam southwest of the country. The ship had previously been expelled from Taiwan.

According to the police statement, the tanker had been anchored there since Feb 27 to await new orders from its owner and was seized a day later.

The United Nations Security Council has over the past decade imposed a raft of economic sanctions on North Korea to deprive Pyongyang of supplies, resources and revenue that could be funneled into its nuclear and missile programs.

Reported by RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

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