Cambodia’s top narcotics police officer, Lieutenant General Moek Dara, and another senior anti-drug official were yesterday detained for questioning by officials from the Interior Ministry and Anticorruption Unit over unspecified criminal allegations, the Interior Ministry said.
Without saying that Lt Gen Dara had been formally arrested, Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak, the ministry’s spokesman, said yesterday that Lt Gen Dara and another narcotics official, Lieutenant Colonel Chea Leang, were under the ministry’s control.
“I can say that still now, General Moek Dara is under the control of our competent authority,” Lt Gen Sopheak said, adding that Lt Col Leang was also being held.
“This is for questioning. Cambodian National Police from the Interior Ministry have cooperated with officials from the Anticorruption Unit [in this investigation]. I do not want to say they are under arrest. They are under our control.”
When asked what crimes Lt Gen Dara and Lt Col Leang were being questioned about, Lt Gen Sopheak declined to comment.
The questioning of Lt Col Leang and Lt Gen Dara, who is secretary-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, came yesterday as a drug investigation into Banteay Meanchey provincial police chief Hun Hean was transferred to the ACU.
Lt Gen Sopheak said yesterday that he did not know if the two cases were linked, but after the high-profile November arrest of Pursat provincial prosecutor Tob Chan Sereivuth, the recently created ACU has shown a willingness to pursue at least some high-ranking officials.
ACU Deputy Chairman Seang Borath confirmed to reporters at an anticorruption conference at the Information Ministry yesterday that an unspecified number of “arrests” had been made yesterday morning, but declined to reveal what officials were involved.
“I don’t want to answer [questions about the arrests] because it is related to the law implementation. We cannot reveal it,” Mr Borath said.
“As you all know, the government led by [Prime Minister Hun Sen] is not reluctant to [act against] corrupt people, including court officials and those who have higher positions.”
The investigation into Lt Gen Dara and Lt Col Leang comes two weeks after Mr Hun Sen called on the police force to take a hard line with any fellow officers found to be involved in the drug trade.
“Concerning drugs, if we arrest one, there is still one more. Lets grab it by the roots, and if it takes place among police, we have to be tough with the police,” the premier said in a Dec 29 speech.
Amid unverified reports that at least one more official had been brought in for questioning by the ACU and Interior Ministry yesterday, Siem Reap provincial police chief Sort Nady said he believed a provincial anti-drug department officer was being questioned.
Mr Nady said Lieutenant Colonel Um Amara, the deputy provincial police chief in charge of the anti-drug department, had traveled to Phnom Penh on Monday after being summoned for questioning at the Interior Ministry, but had not yet returned to his post.
ACU spokesman Keo Remy declined to comment about the investigation yesterday, referring questions to ACU Chairman Om Yentieng, who could not be reached.
During his time in charge of the NACD, Lt Gen Dara has worked closely with the local office of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, jointly holding a workshop on transnational organized crime as recently as October.
In April 2007, Lt Gen Dara, then the director of the Interior Ministry’s anti-drug department, helped spearhead the police force’s largest-ever seizure of precursor chemicals for making drugs at an alleged makeshift laboratory in Kompong Speu province.
The case, however, became embroiled in controversy after Oum Chhay, an adviser to National Assembly President Heng Samrin, was arrested four months later for allegedly transporting the chemicals to the laboratory.
A week after his arrest, Chhay supposedly committed suicide by jumping through a window from the sitting room of Lt Gen Dara’s office at the Interior Ministry’s anti-drug department.
The three police officers guarding Chhay at the time did not face any disciplinary action.
(Additional reporting by Van Roeun)