Cocaine, Heroin Busts Soared in 2012

Police seized more than 40 kg of cocaine and 30 kg of heroin in 2012, a record year for drug busts in Cambodia, according to figures obtained from the National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD).

Lieutenant General Meas Vyrith, deputy secretary-general at the NACD, the umbrella organization for the fight against narcotics in Cambodia, said that, going by preliminary figures, there were 760 drug cases involving all authorities in 2012.

“Out of all the cases that were carried out, we confiscated about 40 kg of cocaine, more than 20 kg of methamphetamine and about 2 kg of marijuana,” he said.

Mr. Vyrith said that although the quantity of drugs seized had soared, the number of cases was lower than in 2011.

Brigadier General Sok Chhour, deputy director of the Interior Ministry’s anti-drug police department, said that police had focused on large drug trafficking operations.

“We cracked down on big cases and on the leaders of drug-trafficking rings,” he said.

National Military Police spokesman Colonel Kheng Tito said that crimes involving drugs had been the most common type of criminal activity in 2012.

He said that military police alone had dealt with 124 drug-related cases, out of a total of 945 cases of all other types.

The quantity of methamphetamine seized only rose slightly from the previous year—19.1 kg of methamphetamine were confiscated in 2011, according to a report last month by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

But last year saw the amount of cocaine authorities confiscated rise by a factor of nearly 40—in 2011, the amount of cocaine confiscated was only 1.1 kg, the NACD report said. Only 3.2 kg of cocaine were reported seized between 2007 and 2011.

In August, a total of roughly 30 kg of cocaine was seized from three Thai women arriving separately at the Phnom Penh International Airport.

Then in October, police announced that they had found another 11 kg in the luggage of two more Thai women, this time at the Siem Reap International Airport.

The women are thought to be drug mules working for major trafficking organizations taking cocaine from South America to Thailand, where the drug is becoming popular among the rich.

The NACD report noted that while domestic cocaine use was thought to be rare, Cambodia had “become a major transit hub for smuggling of cocaine” by drug-trafficking syndicates from places including China and Africa.

The 30 kg of heroin seized in 2012 compares with only 2.4 kg and 2.1 kg seized in 2010 and 2011, respectively, although some 26 kg of heroin were seized the year before.

Just last month, police made a series of major heroin busts. First, a man and a woman were arrested trying to send an estimated 12 kg of heroin to Australia by mail at Phnom Penh’s main post office, disguised as a health tonic.

Then last week, police claimed a haul of 6 kg of cocaine, and some methamphetamine, from a series of raids across Phnom Penh in which five people were arrested.

(Additional reporting by Simon Lewis)

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