Cambodia a Major Player in Narcotics Trade, Reports Say

Cambodia has been singled out by the US State Department as being a key player in the international narcotics trade.

In an annual report issued Wednesday, Cambodia was listed among six countries whose governments were doing an inadequate job of combating drugs production and trafficking (see page 6).

While the US will sanction Burma and Afghanistan, four governments—Cambodia, Haiti, Nigeria and Paraguay—did not meet standards but were certified on the basis that US interests were at stake.

The UN this week in Phnom Penh also highlighted Cambodia as contributing significantly to the international drug trade.

Bengt Juhlih, the UN Inter­national Drugs Control Program deputy representative for South­east Asia, speaking at a press conference at the Council of Minis­ters Monday, claimed Cambodia is one of the major exporters of mari­juana in the world. In the In­ter­national Narcotics Control Board’s 1999 annual report, Cam­bodia was labeled a major regional player in cannabis production.

“Cambodia is increasingly becoming a major source of the illicitly cultivated cannabis found on the illicit market in the countries of East and Southeast Asia and in other countries, primarily Australia,” stated the report from the control board, which is affiliated with the UN and monitors the drug-control situation worldwide.

Cannabis is concealed in cargo containers which leave Cam­bodia on small boats but are eventually transferred to ships waiting in international waters, according to the report.

While marijuana plantations are clearly operating freely in Cambodia, Juhlih emphasized that Phnom Penh’s biggest fight in the coming years will be against hard drugs.

“In hard drugs, I’m talking about synthetic drugs, methamphetamines,” Juhlih said later Mon­day, after a public burning of drugs at sunset at Phnom Penh’s Hun Sen Park.

A further problem facing the country, according to Em Sam An, secretary-general of the Na­tional Authority for Combating Drugs, is the internationalization of the narcotics trade by drug producers targeting Cam­bo­dia as a production and transit base.

“Foreign criminal drug syndicates are relocating their production bases from neighboring countries to provinces in the northwest and areas of the southwest of Cambodia by providing strong financial support and technical expertise,” Em Sam An said earlier this week.

Several top Cambodian anti-drug authorities have claimed that the recently uncovered Kam­pot province marijuana plantations were organized with Chi­nese capital and Thai technical support.

The UN report also questioned the government’s commitment to combatting the drug trade by noting that Cambodia and North Korea continue to be the only two countries in East and South­east Asia that have yet to sign any international drug-control treaties.

Justice Minister Uk Vithun noted Monday that the anti-drug laws were lacking in the area of punishment for drug crimes. For instance, judges in many cases have the choice of either imposing a 15-year prison term or a $2,500 fine. There is a need for new “drugs-control legislation,” said Uk Vithun.

At the press conference Mon­day, officials touted their accomplishments in fighting drugs.

In a prepared speech, National Police Director General Hok Lundy said police authorities in 1999 seized 5 tons of marijuana, 6.2 kg of hashish oil, 970 grams of heroin, 1,110 grams of opium and more than 20,000 amphetamine tablets.

Additionally, 25 plantations and 1,200 kg of marijuana were destroyed in Koh Kong province last year, he reported.

In Kandal province, three hectares and 1,200 kg of marijuana were destroyed last year and in Sihanoukville more than 4 tons of marijuana were confiscated.

However, judging by figures for the first two months, this year will see an increase in drug crimes in Cambodia, Hok Lundy said.

(Additional reporting by Deutsche Presse-Agentur)           




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