Four Taiwanese men and a Cambodian Tourist Police officer have been arrested for allegedly attempting to smuggle 8.4 kg of opium alkaloid and almost a kilogram of methamphetamine through Phnom Penh International Airport and on to Taipei, Taiwan, officials said.
Two of the Taiwanese suspects were arrested on Friday when customs officers at the airport discovered the opium alkaloid, a base substance used to refine heroin, and methamphetamine concealed in their baggage.
A third Taiwanese national was later arrested at a Phnom Penh hotel, and a Cambodian police officer was taken into custody at his home in the Chamkar Mon district of Phnom Penh.
The fourth Taiwanese national suspected of involvement with the smuggling ring was arrested on Saturday as he attempted to leave Phnom Penh by commercial flight, the Interior Ministry said in a statement released on Sunday.
Taiwanese Wu Hung Te, 25, Huang Shun Liang, 28, Kua Yov Kuy, 34, Pan Jin Fong, 44, and Cambodian Sam Nguon, 51, will be detained pending trial, Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Monday.
Customs officials uncovered the drugs using X-ray equipment as the men were about to board an EVA Air flight to Taiwan, Khieu Sopheak said.
The arrest of the low-ranking police officer, who is suspected of helping the suspected Taiwanese traffickers, showed that officials are serious about wiping out drugs, Khieu Sopheak said.
“We have police commitment to crackdown regardless of what links they have to police units. We don’t want that kind of people in the ranks,” he said.
Graham Shaw, program officer at the UN Office for Drugs and Crime, said Monday that the arrests proved that Cambodia is an important hub for transnational drug smugglers and that law enforcement officials here have the capacity to make arrests.
However, arrests are not frequent enough and Cambodian authorities require continued assistance to fight drugs, Shaw said.
Chemical tests should also be undertaken to trace the origin of the opium; identifying the origin would help Cambodia focus their border smuggling suppression efforts, Shaw said.