Anti-drug officials were at a loss Thursday to explain why a large number of heroin smugglers arrested at Phnom Penh International Airport are Taiwanese nationals.
At least five Taiwanese nationals were arrested this year for attempted heroin smuggling, four of them in less than a week earlier this month. An additional three Taiwanese were convicted this year of drug trafficking by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
Moek Dara, director of the Ministry of Interior’s Anti-Drug Department, said that police now know that most heroin passing through Cambodia originates in Burma and crosses into the country from Laos, but he was unable to explain Taipei’s prominence as a final destination for the drug.
“I don’t know why, but most of the drug traffickers we’ve found are Taiwanese,” Moek Dara said.
Moek Dara said that anti-trafficking police use a profiling system to identify potential drug traffickers, and Taiwanese nationals are not the only people Cambodian police keep a watchful eye on.
“We also focus on other nationalities,” he said. “Especially mainland-Chinese, Asian-New Zealanders and some Africans.”
Lour Ramin, secretary-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, conceded that Taiwanese nationals appear to make up the largest number of heroin smugglers from Cambodia, but he declined to offer an explanation.
Graham Shaw, technical officer at the World Health Organization, said that the Taipei connection may stem from illicit drug abuse patterns in Taiwan.
“There are indications based on regional meetings that there is a problem in Taiwan with heroin abuse and it is getting worse,” he said.
Lars Pedersen, officer in charge of the Phnom Penh UN Office on Drugs and Crime, said that he did not know why Taiwanese nationals were choosing Cambodia to trafficking heroin.
Chhuor Kimny, immigration police chief at Phnom Penh International Airport, said that, along with the five Taiwanese nationals arrested so far this year, two Malaysians and one Australian were also arrested for trafficking heroin.