National Police Commissioner Neth Savoeun on Tuesday blamed weak border controls in Malaysia and Singapore for an influx of cocaine, methamphetamine and other dangerous narcotics into Cambodia.
During a closed-door meeting with Interior Minister Sar Kheng and provincial anti-drug officials on the second day of an annual drug conference in Phnom Penh, General Savoeun said drugs were being smuggled into the country at unprecedented levels by plane from three regions: Africa, South America and the Golden Triangle.
“From all three zones, drugs are imported to Cambodia through the airways. They are sent through the post office, carried by hand and under the skin,” he said, adding that 10 source countries had been identified but naming only five: Nigeria, Brazil, Burma, Thailand and Laos.
Gen. Savoeun said Malaysia and Singapore were the only two nations that could serve as air-transit points between the 10 nations and Cambodia.
“We have to wonder: Why are drugs being imported through wealthy countries?” he said, going on to express frustration that Cambodia’s past role in disrupting drug routes to both countries was not being reciprocated.
“Those are the two transit countries, and the drugs still end up in Cambodia even though we have cooperated in the past on this problem.”
According to the National Authority for Combating Drugs, the government seized 1,620 kg of drugs in 2015, with marijuana accounting for the vast majority. Drug cases and related arrests more than doubled year-on-year.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Gen. Savoeun also suggested amendments to existing drug laws, including streamlined regulations to ensure that property seized from traffickers did not go missing.
“For property confiscated from drug traffickers, the procedure is very complicated. It shouldn’t take that long to immediately give property…to the state,” he said.
The general also suggested a lower threshold for the amount of heroin an individual must be caught in possession of to earn a prison sentence of 20 to 30 years. The figure currently stands at 80 grams, he said.
Independent drug specialist David Harding said concerns about increasing drug trafficking raised in the meeting put the growth in seizures into perspective.
“The increase in seizures…could be associated with the fact that their performance has not improved but that the sheer level of traffic is going up at such a rate that they are catching more incrementally,” he said.
Mr. Harding said drug laws in Cambodia were already strict, if erratically enforced, and that proposing yet harsher punishment was “really dodgy,” as most countries were moving away from minimum sentences for minor possession.
(Additional reporting by Taylor O’Connell)