A Kep municipal police officer was sent to Kampot provincial prison Tuesday after being charged by the provincial court with trafficking 1 kg of heroin, the court’s Chief Prosecutor Uk Kimsith said Wednesday.
Nov Sophal, 40, was arrested at his home in Kampot’s Dang Tong district on Saturday morning, where he had been storing the heroin with the intention of smuggling it into Vietnam, said Moek Dara, director of the Interior Ministry’s anti-drug department.
“He was charged with drug trafficking and detained at the provincial prison,” Uk Kimsith said by telephone. He declined to reveal any further details about the case, which he said was still under investigation.
Moek Dara described Nov Sophal as a low-level police officer.
“He is a policeman but he didn’t often go to work,” he said.
Interior Ministry officials spent two days investigating the case with provincial police prior to the arrest, he added.
Moek Dara said the heroin had entered Cambodia in the northeastern part of the country, which borders Laos. “Before 2003, all the narcotics originated in the Golden Triangle [Burma, Thailand and Laos] and passed from Thailand to Cambodia,” he said.
But since Thailand’s violent crackdown on drug dealing in 2003 that left more than 2,000 people dead in a three-month period, drug trafficking routes have changed.
“Since the war on drugs in Thailand, they go through Laos to Cambodia, via Stung Treng, Preah Vihear, Ratanakkiri and Mondolkiri provinces,” he said.
Graham Shaw, technical advisor on drug use for the World Health Organization, said 1 kg of high quality heroin could probably be bought for around $5,000 in Laos, and sold for $10,000 to $15,000 in Vietnam.
It is rare for anyone in Cambodian law enforcement to be arrested for drug trafficking, he added.
“There have been ongoing, persistent rumors of law enforcement involvement in drug trafficking and/or protection but it’s never been proven,” he said.
Interior Minister Sar Kheng told anti-drug officials in November 2004 that the ministry was struggling to combat drug trafficking by military and police officials.
“It is actually difficult in tackling drugs in areas where military police and police…are involved,” he said at the time.
In October 2003, RCAF Major General Dom Hak and Lieutenant Colonel Muon Sokhan were arrested in connection with the discovery of 35 kg of heroin in a Phnom Penh house. Charges against Dom Hak were later dropped unexpectedly.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Nov Sophal’s alleged activities are not common among police.
“I cannot say the police are 100 percent good,” he said, but added that this is not a problem faced by Cambodia alone. “Not all the police are good in any country,” he said.
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