Two police officers from the Interior Ministry have been arrested in connection with marijuana-growing in Kampot province, and officials are continuing to investigate those they claim are protecting marijuana fields in the area, authorities said Wednesday.
National Police Director Hok Lundy on Wednesday said Keo Tha, deputy police commissioner in Kampot, and Bun Thoeun, chief of the executive office at the Interior Ministry, were arrested last week.
Keo Tha was suspended in late February following a government raid of pot fields in Kampot province.
Government critics scoffed at the February raid, calling it a public relations stint to improve the government’s image to international donors. They said officials have known about the pot fields for some time.
Prime Minister Hun Sen also said in late February that officials are not doing enough to prevent drug trafficking. He said local authorities were afraid of treading on territory held by former Khmer Rouge rebels.
Hok Lundy, a powerful member of Hun Sen’s CPP, on Wednesday was stern.
“We are continuing this case to arrest the masterminds, including some RCAF soldiers,” Hok Lundy said. He added that the operation could be run by drug kingpins in Thailand or Taiwan.
“I hope we will proceed to catch military officers involved in this. We know who they are,” Hok Lundy said. “The authorities…are corrupt. We have to eliminate such action.”
Interior Ministry spokesman and deputy secretary-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs Khieu Sopheak said court warrants were issued by Phnom Penh Municipal Court for the two officials before they were arrested. He said both are being held in Phnom Penh. He said roughly 40 hectares of marijuana are cultivated in Chhuk district, north of Kampot town in the southwestern province.
In late February, the government ordered armed forces to survey the area in helicopters and to seek and eventually destroy marijuana.
As many as 10 tons of the drug were burned by government troops as soldiers and reporters watched. In all, authorities made three trips to the region to assess the problem.