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Heroin from Cambodia intercepted by Taiwan

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"High-purity" heroin intercepted by authorities in Cambodia earlier. Photograph: Ministry of Interior

More than 80 kilograms of “high-purity” heroin, confiscated during Taiwan’s largest drug bust in a decade, found its way to the island country via Cambodia, Taiwanese authorities said yesterday, but Cambodian anti-drug and law enforcement agencies contacted by the Post appear to have been in the dark about the operation.

The massive heroin haul was raided from a Taiwanese fishing vessel bound for Kaohsiung Harbor and intercepted in Bashi Channel – situated between Taiwan and the Philippines – by a Taiwanese Coast Guard ship acting in concert with the Taiwanese Bureau of Investigation and the US Drug Enforcement Agency, Taiwan’s Ministry of Justice said on its website.

According to the ministry, the boat had first journeyed to Cambodia, docking at an unspecified location earlier this month where “local drug lords” deposited the heroin on the boat, before attempting to move the haul to Taiwan.

Major General Khieu Saman, director of the anti-drug department at Cambodia’s Ministry of Interior, when asked to confirm the massive bust of heroin coming from the Kingdom, said his forces had not been informed of any sting operation, or been aware such a large drug deal had been facilitated in Cambodian waters.

“I really don’t have information about the busting of heroin in Taiwan,” Saman said. “With some types of drug busts, we are informed for co-operation, but sometimes we are not, because those international agents target the last destination of smugglers and co-operate only with the destination country, such as Taiwan, in order to arrest the perpetrators.”

Meas Virith, deputy secretary-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs within Interpol, also said he was not aware of the Taiwanese bust.

In a fitting water metaphor, Saman explained: “Even if our law enforcement has been strengthening, there will be loopholes, as if we released latticed bamboo into the sea to catch fish, but some fish still slip through the holes in the net.”

He speculated that the heroin was likely trafficked from the famed drug-producing area known as the “Golden Triangle,” which encompasses parts of Thailand, Burma, Vietnam and Laos.

The revelations follow a string of recent drug busts on Cambodian soil that has resulted in more than 40 kilograms of cocaine and methamphetamines being seized at the Phnom Penh and Siem Reap international airports since August 7.

Nine people, including seven Thai women, have been arrested over the busts.

Those seizures followed the April arrest in Australia of two Cambodian men who were accused of importing 65 kilograms of a substance containing heroin from Cambodia.

Regarding the latest bust, US Embassy spokesman Sean McIntosh told the Post by email yesterday that he could “neither confirm nor deny US involvement in this matter.” DEA spokesman Lawrence Payne was not immediately available to answer questions.

Lieutenant General Kirt Chantharith, spokesman for the National Police, Lieutenant General Sok Phal, deputy police commissioner in charge of security, and Taiwanese officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

To contact the reporters on this story: Vong Sokheng at sokheng.vong@phnompenhpost.com
Bridget Di Certo at bridget.dicerto@phnompenhpost.com
With assistance from Justine Drennan

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