Drug Official Says Crackdown Is Not a War

In the wake of a series of small-scale drug busts, Ministry of In­ter­ior spokesman General Khieu Sopheak said Wednesday that,  although Cambodia is not conducting a Thai-style “war on drugs,” anti-drugs authorities are confident they can crack down on the sale, transport and use of illegal methamphetamine pills.

Khieu Sopheak, also the deputy secretary of the National Authority to Combat Drugs, made the comments after police in Kratie prov­ince seized 28,000 speed pills and arrested two women in connection with the pills. That bust came a day after the arrest on drug charges of a district police chief from Stung Treng province.

Khieu Sopheak also said that the bust, the second biggest in recent years, was not timed to correspond with the Asean Regional Forum, saying that Asean nations are on very intimate terms, and don’t need a show of force to prove anything to each other.

Provincial Police Chief So Neak said that the Kratie case was the biggest in the province in the last three years, adding that the largest bust last year was of only 7,000 to 8,000 pills. Since recent crackdowns in Thailand began, smugglers have been utilizing routes through Cambodia to evade capture in Thailand, So Neak said.

“We have been aware for some time that the drugs come down the Mekong,” UN Office for Drugs and Crime’s Graham Shaw said of the Kratie arrests, adding that drugs are often smuggled from the Lao border to transit points along the Mekong River.

But, Shaw said, the Kratie bust does not match the size of those made in Thailand. Author­i­ties “will need to confiscate 1 million pills or several hundred kilos of heroin to make a splash,” he said.

Khieu Sopheak acknowledged that bigger busts have been made in Thailand, but said that no “war on drugs” is on the horizon for Cambodia. He said the government’s strategy will be to continue to steadily make as many busts as possible, no matter what size.

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