Owner of Meth Den Is Interior Ministry Official

Authorities are searching for an Interior Ministry official who owns a three-story video arcade in Phnom Penh that was used as a drug den before police raided the establishment over the weekend and arrested dozens of people, an official said Monday.

Thirty of those people—29 young men and a young woman—were smoking crystal methamphetamine when police stormed the building at noon Saturday, and were sent to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday to be questioned before being returned to police custody, according to municipal anti-drug police chief Iv Thearith.

Mr. Thearith said 23 university students who were playing arcade games and studying on the building’s second floor when police showed up—apparently unaware of the drug use occurring in rooms on the first and third floors—were released Monday.

“Thirty people…were sent to the court today and the other 23 were handed over to their parents because they were students who went to the arcade,” he said.

Mr. Thearith identified the owner of the arcade as a police officer in the Interior Ministry’s penal department named Chea Chamroeun.

“He is on the run, and now our anti-drug police are seeking to arrest him,” Mr. Thearith said.

Sok Khemrin, director of the Interior Ministry’s penal department, said he did not recognize Mr. Chamroeun’s name. “But we will cooperate with investigating police to arrest him,” he said.

In a separate case, 13 people who were caught smoking crystal meth at an Internet cafe in Siem Reap City on Saturday night—including teenagers as young as 14—were jailed Monday on charges of drug use and distribution, according to Srey Youra, the deputy provincial military police commander who led the raid.

Mr. Youra said the court would also summon the cafe’s owner, a local businessman.

However, Eng Kimthol, an investigating judge at the Siem Reap Provincial Court who is handling the case, said he had not yet charged the 13, who were still being questioned by a prosecutor as of last night.

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