Gov’t Defends Small-Scale Drug Arrests

As anti-drug police continue to bust small-time methamphetamine dealers, officials still are un­able or unwilling to arrest the suppliers of large-scale dealers of the speed pills, a crime prevention official said this week.

Police Monday arrested a man at the Angkor Hotel in Phnom Penh’s Prampi Ma­kara district, seiz­ing 1,600 methamphetamine pills and a handgun, said a Min­is­try of Interior deputy anti-drug po­lice officer who asked not to be named. The pills had come from sup­pliers on the Laos border and were to be sold to foreign guests of the hotel, the officer said.

Several similar busts have taken place in recent weeks. Municipal police seized 185 methamphetamine pills from a taxi driver Satur­day. And on the same day two women were arrested in possession of 305 speed pills.

Graham Shaw of the UN office for Drugs and Crime said  that the small-time dealers are an easier target for police. “The big-timers are protected by powerful people, including in the law enforcement communities, and some [are protected] by senior people in society,” he said Monday.

Ministry of Interior spokesman General Khieu Sopheak, who is also deputy secretary of the Nation­al Authority to Combat Drugs, did not want to downplay the importance of the small busts.

“Even though they are small, they are still committing a crime,” he said. And he dismissed the notion that large-scale dealers operate with impunity or are more powerful that the law enforcement community. “That is not the policy of the government,” he said.

Municipal anti-drug police officer Uy Saothy said his unit hopes to make a big methamphetamine bust next month and that municipal police are “working hard” to investigate major drug suppliers.

Interior Ministry anti-drug officers declined to comment on any investigations or pending arrests.

Most of the pills come from the “infamous Golden Triangle,” at the meeting of the Thai, Laotian and Bur­mese borders, Shaw said. But, he said, local production is “rel­atively small and of low quality.”

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