Australian Policeman To Get Phnom Penh Beat

An officer from the Australian Federal Police will come to Phnom Penh on a six-month assignment to monitor crime syndicates, the burgeoning heroin and amphetamine trades and human smuggling, the commissioner of the Australian police force said.

The announcement follows a meeting between the AFP’s new director, Commissioner Michael Keelty, and Hok Lundy, director-general of the Cambodian Na­tional Police. The officer will share information with AFP officers stationed in Bang­kok and Viet­nam, as well as with Cam­bodian police, Keelty said.

“The syndicates are actually operating across a number of borders at the same time,” Keelty said. “So we could all be working on it at the same time without realizing it.”

If it proves successful after six months, the AFP office in Phnom Penh will be­come permanent,  Keelty said.

Crime syndicates operate free­ly in much of Southeast Asia, us­ing Cambodia as a transit state for heroin or illegal immigrants bound for Australia or other western ports, Keelty said. One of the jobs of the liaison officer will be to deter­mine the size of those operations. The officer also will investigate what is expected to be a surge in amphetamine-dealing from Thai­land, where amphetamines  al­ready are an epidemic.

“We expect [amphetamines] to flood the region,” Keelty said.

Keelty’s three-day visit, from Friday to Sunday, was the first by an AFP commissioner. In addition to Hok Lundy, he also met with other senior National Police members.

Criminals who use Cambodia as safe harbor for their activities make Australia a more dangerous and unstable place to live, Keelty said. Illegal immigrants sometimes pass through Cam­bodia on their way to Australia, pay­ing up to $5,000 per head, he said. “They jump the queue on le­gitimate refugees.”

The heroin trade also has ex­acted a high price in Australia, where addicts routinely die, Keel­ty said.

“We have a high fatality rate with heroin overdoses,” he said.

Although bribery is commonplace in Cambodia and police here have a poor record of prosecutions, Keelty said Aus­tralian police will not pass judgment on their Cambodian counterparts.

“It’s better for us to show them how we would do it and hope they learn from us,” he said.

The AFP officer will conduct some training exercises for  Cam­bodian officers, including surveillance and investigation techniques.

The AFP has liaison officers in 21 countries around the world, including Burma. Until now the AFP has covered Phnom Penh from Bangkok.


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