Official Solicits Anti-Drug Aid

A top anti-drug official has called for international assistance in combating the narcotics trade and money laundering in Cam­bodia, saying the country is be­coming a regional hub for the interlinked criminal activities.

Sum Manit, general secretary of the National Authority for Com­bating Drugs, who recently returned from a regional conference on drug control in Hanoi, said Thursday that Cambodia lacks the necessary resources to combat the growing trade in drugs  and “dirty money.”

“We all know this money is not only laundered through casinos. It can come through various routes such as investment or through the bank system, as in other countries,” he said.

“For example, if someone builds a 10-story hotel, we cannot know if the money invested is laun­dered money or clean mon­ey. But we cannot study or re­search this problem without technical and human resources, and with no equipment or budget,” he explained.

In order to combat the problem, Sum Manit called on donor countries to provide training for Cambodian anti-drug and customs officials. He cited in particular the French, who have previously provided one expert to conduct training.

At the May 15 meeting in Ha­noi, the six countries bordering the Mekong River also issued a joint plea for assistance in fighting the narcotics trade, the source of much of the money laun­dered in Cambodia.

Sum Manit explained that weaknesses in Cambodia’s anti-drug efforts are being exploited by traffickers, who bring marijuana and opium grown in the Golden Triangle region over the Lao-Cambodian border, then smuggle it out of the country through Sihanoukville Port.

More than $1.5 million pledged by the UN to combat the regional drug trade will go toward the effort to reduce smuggling, in particular over the border with Laos at Stung Treng.

But Sihanoukville Police Chief Em Bunsath said Thursday that a recent drug crackdown had already reduced the level of drug trafficking over the first quarter of 1998.

“I’m very happy to see this situation after the anti-drug officials were asked to practice a new, stricter policy,” he said, explaining that searches on shipments leaving the port had been stepped up.

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