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Prime Minister Hun Sen at an event to celebrate National Clean City day yesterday in Phnom Penh. Photo supplied
Prime Minister Hun Sen at an event to celebrate National Clean City day yesterday in Phnom Penh. Photo supplied

PM touts airport busts

Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday lauded Cambodia’s efforts with drug seizures at its international airports, questioning how other countries with more “advanced technology” failed to do the same.

Speaking at the capital’s Peace Palace, the premier seemed perplexed as to how drugs were trafficked through other countries but that Cambodian officials were able to nab these transfers without the technical know-how available to other nations.

“I do not understand why drugs are able to be trafficked from Latin America and go through many international airports but get caught in Cambodia,” he said. “How do those countries with advanced technology work?”

The premier, however, made no mention of Cambodia’s cooperation with other nations on drug enforcement. Indeed, a 5-kilogram cocaine bust was made at the Phnom Penh International Airport with the assistance of the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

Meas Vyrith, general-secretary at the National Authority for Combating Drugs, acknowledged there was some information sharing with other nations, especially ASEAN states, in conducting trans-border drug busts, but agreed with the premier that the nation’s successes were largely because of the efforts of local authorities.

“In fact, we have done like Samdech [Hun Sen] mentioned – we cannot wait for the information from other countries, and we have worked hard ourselves,” he said.

However, the rosy picture presented by the prime minister appeared to run counter to a report released last year by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, which identified Cambodia as a transportation hub of growing importance for heroin and methamphetamine, and also pointed to porous borders with Vietnam and Laos that aid in trafficking.

Drug expert David Harding, meanwhile, said yesterday that international assistance was certainly helping with seizures, but also noted that most drug seizures at airports were of the “more obvious and easy” variety – where travel from Latin America through Africa raised clear red flags.

And given that Cambodia was a major transit hub for drugs, he added, the relatively small number of arrests didn’t necessarily bode well. “The relatively modest number of seizures compared to the large amount of drugs that could be passing through country does not reflect this success,” he said.

The prime minister yesterday went on to link drug busts with seizures of ivory transited through the Kingdom, saying there should be a combined effort to stem the practice.

Days earlier he said the country would ignore the internationally accepted practice of destroying stockpiles from ivory busts, instead displaying them publicly.

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