Three members of an alleged international drug syndicate and more than 1 ton of marijuana they are accused of importing from Laos were on Tuesday paraded before reporters during a press conference at the National Police headquarters in Phnom Penh.
Khieu Saman, director of the Interior Ministry’s anti-drug trafficking department—who led an investigation that culminated in raids on three separate properties and three arrests in Phnom Penh on Friday and Saturday—said that the 1.4 tons of marijuana confiscated in the operation was worth more than $7 million, and had been destined for export.
“The marijuana was packaged in a highly technical way for selling to a third country that has a high price and a large market,” he said. “If we value it at international standards as used by police in Australia, America and Europe, the marijuana seized is worth more than $7 million.”
Lieutenant General Saman explained how Som Dara, 36, also known as Mr. Baraing, Vit Saing, 48, and Suon Pheakdey, 33, allegedly sourced the marijuana in Laos.
“Mr. Baraing, the translator, received the money from abroad to buy and transport the marijuana,” he said.
In Laos, the marijuana was packaged in bags labeled Dao Coffee, which were then transported by Mr. Saing to Phnom Penh, where Mr. Pheakdey repackaged the drugs in vacuum-sealed plastic.
Lt. Gen. Saman said a fourth man was arrested in Phnom Penh on Friday, but was released because he had no connection to the drug ring. He said police were also investigating leads into a European involved in the syndicate, but declined to provide details.
The three suspects were questioned at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday, according to deputy prosecutor Sieng Sok. He said they could face between 10 years and life in prison if found guilty of trafficking the marijuana.
At the press conference, Lt. Gen. Saman said that during the first seven months of the year, the National Police arrested more than 2,000 suspects in 1,300 drug-related cases and seized 90 kg of narcotics, not including marijuana.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the 90 kg of narcotics seized in the first seven months of the year did not include the 1.4 kg of marijuana confiscated on Friday and Saturday. The figure does not include all marijuana seized over that period.