Cambodian officials Sunday acknowledged the possible presence of drug laboratories recently opened along the Thai-Cambodian border, but said it was unlikely that well-organized drug trafficking gangs are operating inside the country.
Aggressive anti-drug campaigns on the Thai-Burmese border have forced drug makers to shift toward Cambodia, The Bangkok Post reported Saturday, with the gulf coast emerging as a popular shipment area. Thai authorities believe at least five professional Taiwanese chemists are operating drug laboratories along the border, the paper reported.
Several Cambodian government authorities could not confirm the reports, saying they had no official word on drug activity in those areas.
But Lour Ramin, deputy secretary-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, said suspected amphetamine laboratories likely were hidden on the borders of Cambodia’s westernmost provinces, namely Koh Kong and Banteay Meanchey provinces.
Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said it wasn’t yet clear what level of cooperation would exist between Thai and Cambodian authorities, though information has been exchanged.
Lour Ramin said investigations are going on along the border, but authorities have not turned up evidence of well-organized domestic drug manufacturing.
He did say a small, mobile amphetamine laboratory was found last year in the Samlot district area of Battambang province. And the government has admitted to limited amphetamine production in Koh Kong province
Khieu Kanharith said heavy jungles and poor roads in Cambodia’s west would make large-scale drug manufacture and transport nearly impossible.
Still, Lour Ramin said foreign drug traders may be preying on poor Cambodians—willing to lease their land for hastily-built drug laboratories that can be easily abandoned.
And one Interior Ministry official who asked not to be named said drug makers in Battambang province have military protection.
Cambodia has come under fire in the past for allegations of military involvement in drug smuggling.