Preah Sihanouk Provincial Court on Thursday charged seven foreigners and a Cambodian with the sale and manufacture of drugs, as well as permitting their use in Sihanoukville’s Happy Hippi Bar.
Australian Joe Ludemann, 45, and his wife, Kim Chenda, 40, a Vietnamese national, owned the bar and were arrested there along with their Cambodian cleaner, Khuon Srei Mom, and five foreigners on Wednesday, said Long Kim Hour, a senior Sihanoukville military police officer for narcotics.
American Eric Jay Weisman, 50, Canadian Alex Sribny, 44, Swede Anders Bergstein, 54, and Russians Nuriahmetov Rasil, 40, and Pavel Pelogotin, 41, were ordered to be detained at the provincial prison with the other suspects, he said.
“It is the first time in Sihanoukville city that our military police have raided drug users and sellers who are foreign,” he said, adding that military police reportedly confiscated crystal methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine pills, among others.
Heng Bunti, deputy provincial military police commander, said the bar was under surveillance prior to the arrests. “We raided this bar after spending many months monitoring activities of drug use and selling,” Mr Bunti said. Riem Chan Mony, deputy prosecutor, said the case had been assigned to an investigating judge.
The bar’s website displays photographs of cannabis and refers to patrons as “happy tokers.”
In a separate case, Takeo Provincial Court on May 2 charged two men with growing marijuana after police destroyed 1,155 cannabis plants, said deputy provincial police chief Suon Phon. On April 30, provincial police arrested Buoy Khoeun, 36, and Manh San, 24, in Kiri Vong district, where plants were destroyed, said Mr Phon.
Graham Shaw, technical officer for harm reduction and HIV/ AIDS at the World Health Organization, said that in Cambodia, the focus was on combating the most harmful drugs like heroin and methamphetamines.
(Additional reporting by Alice Foster)