Police in Phnom Penh made the country’s largest ever methamphetamine seizure late last week after arresting three members of a trafficking ring who were found with nearly 55 kg of drugs worth about $3 million, most of which was destined for Taiwan, an official said Saturday.
At a press conference at the National Police headquarters, Deputy National Police Commissioner Mok Chito said officers made the arrests after a tip from an informant sparked a three-month-long investigation in Phnom Penh and Stung Treng province.
“We ran the operation to investigate a huge drug trafficking ring with a structure inside the country to outside the country,” he said. “We arrested three people at five targets and we confiscated drugs and equipment.”
Lieutenant General Chito said that on Thursday and Friday, police in Phnom Penh apprehended Cambodian woman Phal Rany, 22, and two Chinese men, Deng Yuan Ping, 53, and Ly Yong, 42.
Oum Sopheakdey, a deputy prosecutor at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, on Sunday said he had provisionally charged the three and sent the case to an investigating judge.
“The two Chinese men are charged with producing and distributing illegal drugs…while the woman is charged with participating in criminal activity.”
According to a statement posted to the National Police website on Saturday, Ms. Rany was arrested in Russei Keo district.
Mr. Ly, a drug manufacturing expert, and Mr. Deng, a laboratory expert, were arrested in Chamkar Mon district, the statement says.
At the press conference on Saturday, police displayed the entirety of the drug haul: 38 kg of crystal methamphetamine, 16 kg of methamphetamine tablets and 345 grams of heroin. Lt. Gen. Chito said the total estimated street value of the drugs was $3 million.
He added that the drugs came from the “Golden Triangle”—where Laos, Thailand and Burma meet—before being smuggled from Laos into Stung Treng.
From the northern province, the drugs were sent to Phnom Penh, where Mr. Ly and Mr. Deng planned to mix them with cutting agents to increase their weight and maximize profits.
“According to the suspects’ answers, they were going to use this more than 50 kilos to create more than 100 kilos and they would distribute it within just 1 1/2 months,” Lt. Gen. Chito said.
He said the trafficking ring had allegedly distributed drugs on at least two previous occasions, and planned to sell part of the latest batch in Cambodian nightclubs and smuggle the rest to Taiwan.
“We will continue to investigate more inside and outside the country,” Lt. Gen. Chito said.
A fourth suspect, Liv Seu, 50, was due to arrive in Phnom Penh on Sunday from the Stung Treng provincial prison, where he had been held since April over weapons charges unrelated to the drug case, according to Meas Vyrith, secretary-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs.
Lieutenant General Vyrith said Ms. Rany, the Cambodian woman arrested in Phnom Penh, identified Mr. Seu as the leader of the trafficking operation, but that it was not clear whether Mr. Seu had been aiding the others from prison.
He said police in Stung Treng were also unable to arrest a fifth suspect, another Chinese man whom he would not name.
“We sent our officers to Stung Treng and checked the location, but he already escaped,” Lt. Gen. Vyrith said.
He said last week’s bust was Cambodia’s single largest methamphetamine seizure and the country’s third-largest drug haul ever.
“If we talk about methamphetamine that we have seized in Cambodia, it is the big one,” he said. “If we talk about all kinds of drugs it is the third [biggest] one.”
According to Lt. Gen. Vyrith, the largest drug seizure occurred in 2003, when police found 40 kg of mostly heroin hidden in a house in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kok district.
In a report released late last month, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime said the methamphetamine market in Cambodia continued to grow through the end of 2013 and identified the synthetic narcotic as a “primary drug of concern” for the country.