An environment of pervasive corruption is making Cambodia highly vulnerable to penetration by drug traffickers and foreign crime syndicates, the US State Department said in its latest global drug report, published earlier this month.
Although drug-related investigations, arrests and seizures increased in 2005, Cambodian law enforcers also continue to suffer from limited resources and a lack of training, the State Department said in its annual International Narcotics Control Strategy Report.
“Corruption, abysmally low salaries for civil servants, and an acute shortage of trained personnel severely limit sustained advances in effective law enforcement,” the report states.
There have also been reports of continued military and police involvement in large-scale cannabis cultivation in remote areas, it adds, before stating that China may be indirectly adding to Cambodia’s drug problem.
“The Chinese…are currently constructing excellent new roads and bridges connecting the border regions with the main cities and rural areas in Cambodia. Once these roads are completed, high speed transportation routes will facilitate even greater movement of drugs,” it warns.
In the meantime, heroin, methamphetamines and cannabis are being smuggled through Phnom Penh International Airport in small briefcases, in shoes and strapped to individuals’ bodies, it adds.
In the first 11 months of 2005, 705 people were arrested for drug offenses, representing an increase of 231 arrests, or 33 percent, over the same period in 2004, the report said.
There were 10 heroin-related arrests and 13 for cannabis cultivation from January to November 2005. Six-hundred-and-seventy arrests, or 95 percent of the total number, were made in methamphetamine cases, although seizures of the pills dropped by 67 percent.
“In 2004, we were able to confiscate almost 1 million [tablets], of which one case was almost half a million pills…in Stung Treng province,” said Lour Ramin, deputy secretary general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs. “In 2005, there were more arrests…but in each arrest we were able to seize less.”
Lour Ramin added that he approved of the report’s conclusions, though he added: “In 2005 our officials did hard work in cracking down on drug smuggling and doing investigations.”
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said he was too busy to speak to a reporter.
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