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Drug web pulling at Cambodia


A police officer makes a list of items used in the production of narcotics which were seized during a drug bust in Kampong Speu province earlier this month. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

The production and use of drugs across the globe is largely trending downward, but it’s a trend Southeast Asia is bucking, a UN drug official said.

Speaking after a meeting of dozens of senior government and UN Office on Drugs and Crime officials in the capital, UNODC regional representative Gary Lewis told the Post that Cambodia is doing everything it can to avoid being caught in the region’s drug vortex.

“Contrary to other parts of the world where the drug problem is either being contained or is declining,” Lewis said via email, “in Southeast Asia, we see soaring production and consumption of methamphetamines and an increase in heroin manufacture from the Golden Triangle. Cambodia is concerned that it is being drawn into this web. UNODC’s job is to help push back against this.”

Little more than a week ago, a two-pronged raid saw police seize 19 tonnes of chemicals that can be used to produce drugs at the port in Sihanoukville, while a search of containers at the Phnom Penh port turned up drug-producing equipment that had originated in China.

At the time, officials suggested they may have been connected to another large stash of precursor chemicals unearthed earlier in the month at a pig farm in Kampong Speu.

The 19 tonnes of chemicals seized on July 14 was easily the largest in recent memory. In contrast, “the largest drug bust in 2007 found only five tonnes of chemicals”, Kim Yan, chairman of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, said yesterday.

For the year, police have “found 30 tonnes of chemicals intended for producing drugs in Cambodia ... the largest amount so far,” Kim Yan added. “This amount of chemicals could have produced a million tablets of methamphetamine if we had not raided on time.”

Still, the drug-trafficking threat remains palpable in the Kingdom, Lewis said, citing Australian reports of “significant seizures of drugs which have transited Cambodia”.

Lewis said the UNODC will continue to support Cambodia as it tackles drug-related issues including enforcement and rehabilitation and also offer help in combating other trans-border crimes.

To contact the reporters on this story: Vong Sokheng at
Justine Drennan at



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