While counter-narcotics activities in Cambodia increased substantially in 2004, the change reflected a major increase in narcotics activity and only a minor increase in anti-narcotics policing, the US said in its 2005 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report.
The annual report, released March 1 by the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, lauded the National Authority for Combating Drugs for cooperating with international counter-narcotics agencies, but slammed the government for institutional weaknesses, the complicity of military personnel and corruption for hamstringing most narcotic-control efforts.
The report also drew attention to the alarming escalation of the use and trafficking of amphetamine-type stimulants. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that more than 10,000 metamphetamine tablets enter Cambodia each day, some 25 percent of which are thought to be exported on to Thailand. In addition, Cambodian authorities believe that foreign crime syndicates have set up mobile laboratories within Cambodia that produce amphetamines, the report said.
Cambodia’s long, porous borders and lax customs and law-enforcement agencies have turned the country into a regional hub for the export of narcotics, particularly amphetamine-type stimulants produced in the Golden Triangle area, the report added.
Though Cambodia is not a producer of opiates, it does serve as a transit route for heroin from Burma and Laos to international markets, the report said. “There are indications of military personnel in these activities,” it added.
The only drug produced in substantial quantities in Cambodia, the report said, was marijuana, with 1,000 tons grown annually— mostly in the form of contract cultivation, “with Cambodians operating with the financial help and under the control or influence of foreign criminal syndicates.”
The report said that the NACD “has the potential to become an effective policy and coordination unit” but is hampered by limited resources, lack of training, poor coordination, ineffective legal penalties, a weak judiciary, “abysmally low salaries for civil servants” and most of all, corruption.
“Corruption [makes] Cambodia highly vulnerable to penetration by drug traffickers and foreign crime syndicates,” the report said.
The report noted that Cambodia “is making progress toward more effective institutional law enforcement against illegal narcotics trafficking,” citing substantial increases in drug-related investigations, seizures and arrests.
Cambodia has cooperated with US agencies in the deporting of persons wanted for drug-related crimes, drafted legislation to stiffen drug penalties and shown interest in the development of drug rehabilitation clinics. However, the country’s “capacity to implement an effective, systematic approach to counter-narcotics operations remains low,” the report said.
Graham Shaw, program officer for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, said on Sunday that the report offered “an accurate reflection of the narcotics [situation] in Cambodia.”