For the second time in less than six weeks, a person arriving from Phnom Penh International Airport at a foreign destination has been arrested on suspicion of smuggling heroin, media reports said Thursday.
Kong Khanh Le, a 32-year-old Australian national, was arrested Wednesday by Australian federal police at Adelaide International Airport after customs officials allegedly found heroin hidden in jars of pickled fish filets in his luggage, according to media reports.
The filets, which made it past officials in Phnom Penh, concealed 39 condoms that contained over 2 kg of what police suspect is heroin, Australia’s customs service said in a statement.
On April 14, a woman arriving in Hong Kong from Phnom Penh was arrested after 3.1 kg of heroin were reportedly found in dried plums she was carrying.
Customs officials in Brisbane on March 1 arrested a 49-year-old Australian allegedly carrying 2 kg of heroin, also hidden inside condoms concealed in fish filets and brought via Phnom Penh.
In December, Singapore hanged Nguyen Tuong Van, a 25-year-old Australian convicted in 2002 of traveling from Cambodia to Australia while in possession of 400 grams of heroin.
But not all heroin shipments make it past Phnom Penh.
Wednesday’s arrest follows the seizure of 6.5 kg of heroin allegedly discovered in the clothing and baggage of two Taiwanese men at the airport on May 19 and 20.
Lour Ramin, director of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, said arrests for drug smuggling in Cambodian and foreign airports demonstrate two things.
“Firstly, it shows that the authorities enforcing the law in Cambodia and in other countries are very active in combating drugs,” he said.
“Secondly, we can conclude that Phnom Penh airport is still a place where drugs pass through.”
He referred further questions to airport police, who could not be contacted.
Cambodia’s increasing use as a transit country for drug smuggling from countries such as Laos, Thailand and Burma is worrying, the US embassy said in a statement.
“While the United States is concerned by Cambodian law enforcement agencies’ limited resources, lack of training, poor coordination and allegations of corruption, we are encouraged by the high-level support given for the effort to battle drugs,” the embassy said.