Military police in Phnom Penh arrested 26 people aged between 20 and 30 on Tuesday in two consecutive raids on a methamphetamine-ridden slum in Sen Sok district’s Toek Thla commune, according to district military police commander Prum Sakda.
Trapaing Chhouk village has long been known to authorities as a drug den and security forces carry out frequent raids on the maze-like shanty town that sits in an alley over a drainage swamp.
Those arrested Wednesday were mostly students, Mr. Sakda said.
“On Wednesday, we arrested five young people who were using drugs and questioned them until they told us there were more people [using drugs] in Trapaing Chhouk village where they had bought the drugs,” he said, adding that police returned to the village with the youths.
“When we got there, the group of suspects inside the house had grown and we arrested all 26 who were there,” he said.
A squad of 15 military police officers carried out the raid, which Mr. Sakda said had been the result of a monthlong operation. However, despite the large number of suspects detained, Mr. Sakda said senior-level drug dealers managed to stay hidden.
“We found two small plastic bags of methamphetamine,” he said.
Authorities claim the warren-like layout and narrow entry points into Trapaing Chhouk make the enclave difficult to access and that by the time police enter, most criminals have already escaped by dropping into the sewage pond below.
“For us, we only have authority to make arrests or enforce crackdowns, but we think to stop [crime] in the area, the state should plan to develop it,” Mr. Sakda said.
All 26 people arrested were detained last night at the Phnom Penh municipal military police headquarters and were due to be sent to court today, said Khen Sovann, deputy commander of the municipal force.
“We might be ready to send them tomorrow to the municipal court,” he said.
Commune chief Tann Navin said that recent efforts by security forces to rid the area of drugs had brought the area at least somewhat under control.
“The fact is, Trapaing Chhuok is not the same as it was before,” he said, admitting that its bad reputation persists.
“This is just what is spoken from one person to another one. But from year to year, drugs have decreased,” he said. “Especially in 2015, the authorities have really tried to crackdown—some of the people arrested have never come back as they did before.”