Minister of Interior Sar Kheng has called on authorities in the capital and provinces to step up the fight against illegal drugs to prevent the Kingdom from becoming a drug manufacturing and drug-exporting country.
He said if Cambodia is turned into a drug-producing country, it will be a black mark on the nation’s dignity and such activity will attract international criminal gangs and increase the amount of drugs available here to dangerous levels that will impact the whole country.
Speaking at the inauguration ceremony of the Kamrieng Migrant Reception Centre in Boeung Raing commune of Battambang province’s Kamrieng district on December 20, Sar Kheng said illegal drugs remain an issue of great concern for Cambodia.
Sar Kheng’s remarks came a week after the bust of the largest drug manufacturing operation discovered in the country this year that resulted in the seizure of more than two tonnes of ketamine and more than 84 tonnes of precursor chemicals used for drug manufacture as well as laboratory equipment and machinery used for the large-scale synthesis of illegal drugs.
He said drug trafficking throughout the region has not been subsiding, especially not synthetic drugs made in laboratories from various chemicals which often have other legitimate industrial purposes as well and are therefore hard to control without disrupting the activities of legal businesses.
“It’s difficult because these drugs are made from various chemicals – let’s say five different substances – and the producers will claim they are bringing those substance into the country to make fertilizers, for example, when actually they are producing illegal drugs like the more than two tonnes we seized in Oral district of Kampong Speu. That is the problem,” Sar Kheng said.
He continued that local authorities must solve these problems by inspecting all suspect products from the start of the production chain until they are exported by the company and to keep an eye out for businesses that are diverting any portion of their chemical inventory to other parties.
“We must not be careless because this will cause us problems under international law and it will damage our reputation. People would say that drugs are being exported directly from Cambodia when previously it was just a transit country. Not all of the drugs are exported from our country, some inevitably end up being distributed here, and that is dangerous,” he said.
Sar Kheng stressed that if this drug manufacturing problem isn’t dealt with in a timely manner then Cambodia will end up being no different than Thailand or the Philippines where the problems with drug traffickers became so severe that anti-drug operations by the state led to the deaths of thousands of people in each of those countries.
Sar Kheng said that he did not support “drug war” style operations that result in the killing of thousands of people even if they are criminals, but those countries may have seen that option as their only resort given the circumstances.
“What I want to say now is that we must not allow our situation to deteriorate until it becomes that severe. We must solve this problem starting today,” he said.
Sar Kheng said that illegal drugs and the problems they cause were a drain on the national budget and human resources and that imprisoning people for drug crimes was also expensive because each prisoner costs money to maintain.
He noted that there are currently around 38,000 detainees in the Kingdom and approximately 51 per cent of them are charged with drug offenses.
Vei Samnang, governor of Kampong Speu province where the two tonnes of ketamine were seized last week, said that his authorities were conducting anti-drug operations on a daily basis, but obviously more needs to be done because people are still committing these crimes.
He said the raid that resulted in the two tonnes of ketamine being seized came after a long investigation and that the authorities weren’t going to rest on their laurels now and were still following up on further leads generated by the case.
Following the ketamine bust in Kampong Speu, Phnom Penh municipal court on December 20 ordered the three Chinese suspects remanded to pre-trial detention after charging each of them on counts of drug trafficking, drug production and money laundering.
Anti-Drug Department deputy director In Song told The Post on December 20 that the ringleader in the case appeared to be Ye Yan Shou, 58, and his two accomplices were Ye Yong, 48, and Ly Po Han, 32.
He said nine workers at the site of the illicit laboratory were questioned but allowed to go free because they weren’t directly involved in the crimes, though three of them have been identified as witnesses because they had overheard the conversations of the three suspects regarding the drug activity.
Meas Sovann, director of the Drug Addict Relief Association of Cambodia, praised the authorities for combating drug traffickers and taking illegal drugs out of circulation. He urged the authorities to keep searching for the top ringleaders who are the ones really behind these crimes rather than just busting users or small time dealers.
From January to December 19 of this year, police have reported 6,033 cases involving drugs with 13,271 suspects arrested nationwide.