A 90-year-old Taiwanese was one of two men arrested at Phnom Penh International Airport in separate incidents Friday and Saturday in which police seized more than 6.5 kg of heroin, officials said Sunday.
Huang Sang Hou, became Cambodia’s oldest person ever arrested at the airport on suspicion of drug trafficking, when he was detained at 9 am Saturday while allegedly carrying 1.9 kg of heroin in 10 small packets inside his jacket, said Theam Chansotha, the airport’s interim customs chief.
“Huang Sang Hou was born in 1916,” Theam Chansotha said. “He is the oldest heroin smuggler passing through Phnom Penh International Airport that we have ever arrested,” he said.
The day before, another Taiwanese man was arrested at 10:30 am, also trying to smuggle a large amount of heroin on to a flight bound for Taipei.
“Chen Hsin Hung, 57, was arrested after passing through the X-ray machine,” Theam Chansotha said.
“We were suspicious of his four plastic bags containing sweets… Why carry so much? We stopped him and found 4.75 kilograms of heroin,” he said.
The heroin had been hidden in egg-shaped chocolate sweet wrappers, he said, adding that Chen had spent only one day in Phnom Penh before attempting to board a flight for Taipei via Kuala Lumpur.
Police suspect the two men were carrying the 6.65 kg of heroin for the same person, as the method of hiding both consignments was the same. Both hauls were divided into individual packages containing about 200 grams each, Theam Chansotha said.
Moek Dara, head of the Interior Ministry’s anti-drug department, said on Sunday that the men had been sent to court and charged.
Graham Shaw, a technical officer on drug use with the World Health Organization, said that improved training, equipment and salaries had motivated officials at the airport.
“I think the airport’s seizure rate is the best anywhere in Cambodia,” he said, but cautioned that the hauls were probably only the tip of the iceberg.
“The international rule of thumb —for lack of a better word—is that what we seize is probably only 10 percent of what is going through,” he said.
Last year, police at Phnom Penh International Airport seized at total of 10.55 kg of heroin, arresting six foreign nationals including two Australians, two people from Hong Kong, one person from Taiwan and another from mainland China, said airport chief of police Chay Bunna.
Asked where Phnom Penh fit into the regional drug trade, Shaw said this was an important question that had yet to be answered. However, he suspects some trade link with Taiwan.
“This is the big question,” he said. “Maybe somebody had even more heroin and wasn’t caught because of these two [arrests].”
Last month, a Taiwanese woman arriving in Hong Kong from Phnom Penh was arrested with 3 kg of heroin hidden in dried plums.
A Taiwanese man arrested in April 2005 at Phnom Penh International Airport had 2.2 kg of heroin hidden under his clothes.
(Additional reporting by Douglas Gillison)