May 5, 2005 - 8:49PM
A Cambodian court has convicted a Chinese-Australian teenager of attempting to traffic 2.1 kilos of heroin into Australia via Hong Kong and sentenced him to 13 years imprisonment, local media reported.
Gordon Vuong, 16, was arrested at Phnom Penh International Airport on January 22 with the heroin concealed on his body and was sentenced to 13 years by Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday, the Cambodia Daily newspaper reported.
"The sentence is still light. If he was not a minor, he could face at least 20 years in jail," the paper quoted presiding judge, Kim Sophorn, as saying.
Cambodian-Australian Yen Karat, 26, and Cambodian national Ek Sam Oeun, 47, who are charged with helping to conceal the drugs on Vuong's body, are still in jail awaiting trial.
Australian diplomats in Phnom Penh declined to comment on the case.
Australian Council for Civil Liberties president Terry O'Gorman said Foreign Minister Alexander Downer should immediately become involved in Vuong's case, given his youth.
Mr O'Gorman urged Mr Downer to appeal to the Cambodian government.
"A juvenile would never receive a sentence of that length in Australia and clearly juveniles have got to be treated differently from adults by virtue of the fact that they are juveniles and haven't matured and grown up," Mr O'Gorman told AAP.
"So it is a concerning sentence and it's a sentence that the foreign minister should immediately take up with the Cambodian authorities."
Mr O'Gorman said Justice Minister Chris Ellison should attempt to have Vuong transferred to Australia to serve out his sentence.
"And if we don't have an international transfer treaty with Cambodia then we should hurry up and get one," he said.
"But the issue of a juvenile being sentenced to such a whacking term is an issue frankly the federal government has got to get involved in.
"You wouldn't, under Australian law, get anything like that.
"And to the extent that it's recently been said that; 'Well, we can't interfere with the laws and procedures of another country, in relation to juvenile offenders', well, we should because there are different principles that apply to juvenile offenders from that which apply to adult offenders."
Senator Ellison was unavailable for comment.