Dozens Arrested in Separate Drug Busts at Arcade, Internet Cafe

In separate cases over the weekend, police and military police arrested dozens of people caught smoking crystal methamphetamine at a video arcade in Phnom Penh and an Internet cafe in Siem Reap City, according to officials, who said the venues had been converted into drug dens by dealers hoping to “confuse” authorities.

In Phnom Penh on Saturday, police raided a three-story video arcade in Daun Penh district’s Srah Chak commune, where they found 33 young men and women smoking the synthetic drug in 10 rooms on the ground floor and 10 rooms on the top floor, said deputy municipal police chief Born Sam Ath.

Mr. Sam Ath, who led the noontime operation, said his officers only managed to confiscate a small amount of the drug, as many of the drug users—including a number of suspected dealers—were able to ditch their stashes while police searched the building’s many rooms.

On the second floor, he said, 20 men were found playing arcade games in apparent ignorance of the drug use above and below them, and were also arrested.

“Now, the 20 men are taking urine tests,” he said. “If they are not involved with the drugs, we will call their parents to take them home. But if we find drugs in their urine, we will send them to court with the other 33 drug users and drug distributors.”

Mr. Sam Ath said all 53 people were being held at the Phnom Penh police headquarters, and would be sent to the municipal court today. He said the court also ordered police to remove all 19 arcade machines from the building and send them to the courthouse as evidence.

In a separate case, military police raided an Internet cafe in Siem Reap City’s Kokchak commune on Saturday night and found 13 teenagers and young men smoking crystal meth in a back room, according to Srey Youra, deputy commander of the provincial military police.

“We arrested 13 young men between the ages of 14 and 25 and confiscated 10 small plastic bags containing [a total of] 1.6 grams of ‘ice,’” Mr. Youra said, using a slang term for the narcotic. He said the 13 would be sent to the Siem Reap Provincial Court today.

While not coordinated, the arrests over the weekend revealed efforts by both drug distributors and small-scale dealers to hide their activities in unassuming establishments in the face of more frequent police raids, said Meas Vyrith, secretary-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, an assessment echoed by Mr. Youra and Mr. Sam Ath.

Lieutenant General Vyrith said that while guesthouses were previously favored, “drug distributors have changed their tactics.”

“They are using public places to meet with drug dealers—Internet shops and gaming arcades —to confuse our anti-drug police,” he said, adding that authorities would respond accordingly.

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Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Born Sam Ath as the Phnom Penh municipal anti-drug police chief with the rank of brigadier general. Mr. Sam Ath is a deputy municipal police chief in charge of crime suppression with the rank of colonel.

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