S ACKED National Police deputy Noun Soeur says that 600 kilograms of heroin is
trafficked through Phnom Penh from Myanmar and Laos each week.
formerly head of the national anti-drug squad, said he "knew about this, but
couldn't do anything about it" - sentiments shared by the Phnom Penh anti-drug
chief, General Heng Peo.
"It is right, I agree with what Noun Soeur says,
that 600 kilograms of heroin is being trafficked weekly through Cambodia,"
General Heng Peo said.
Comments by both men implicity linked high-ranking
police and government officials being bought off by smugglers with access to
millions of dollars.
Heng Peo said some of the smugglers held high
official rank themselves.
Neither Soeur nor Heng Peo had been able to go
after the smugglers. Soeur said he knew the identities of the key figures
involved but said: "I can't tell you that or I will die."
Heng Peo said
heroin was big business in Cambodia and that "Cambodia has become a big place to
There was no truth in statements from some officials who
said heroin was not a problem, he said. "If we investigated those officials, we
would find that their families are involved with heroin," he said.
officials ask me that if I claim that there is 600 kilograms of heroin being
trafficked each week, then please arrest [the smugglers]. But how can I?" he
"My policemen lack equipment and experience, and the smugglers are
rich and have high-ranking officials behind them."
Soeur - who is
currently deputy secretary of the FUNCINPEC party behind Prince Norodom Sirivudh
- was speaking to the Post about his recent sacking, which he blamed on his
party colleague and former friend and commander, Co-Minister of Interior You
"I'm sorry that Cambodia is now the place from which to smuggle
heroin. In the past year I was in charge of anti-drug smuggling, but I couldn't
do my job," he said.
"The trafficking problem is much worse than any
political problem," he said.
Soeur said that in his previous position as
head of the anti-drug section "it was my duty to know" about the extent of the
Cambodian heroin problem. "If no-one believes me then give me the money and I
could buy it to show them," he said.
US government Drug Enforcement
Agency (DEA) officials in Bangkok refused to comment on Soeur's claims. Despite
conducting anti-drug training with Cambodian police officers, a US Information
Service (USIS) spokeswoman in Bangkok claimed that DEA officials "could not
comment on this, because it had to do with another country in the
In Phnom Penh, USIS director Frank Huffman said that though it
was impossible for them to know how much heroin was trafficked through Cambodia,
they would "have to take [the statements by Soeur and Peo] at face value as
people who are in a better position than we to know about what's going
Soeur said of recent efforts by the US - through the DEA - to train
Cambodian anti-drug teams: "Are they trying to arrest people for heroin or not?
If they want to know they could come to me directly".
Soeur talked about
casinos - of which Phnom Penh has at least three - as long having been known as
places where "dirty" money can be laundered, while providing explanations as to
how individuals can suddenly come by large sums of money.
Soeur lost his
job, he claims, because of political squabbles within the Ministry of Interior,
and his desire of stamp out internal police corruption. Hockry would elaborate
little more than to say that Soeur had not done his job properly, and that he
treated his subordinates unsuitably.
However, Heng Peo said: "Noun Soeur
is a good and experienced policeman... his work was very good".
that he disagreed with reports saying Soeur was arrogant. "To me his is a good
and likeable man, but he is strict because he is experienced as a policeman. I
don't know why he lost his job," he said.