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US aids bid to stem drug traffic

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US anti-narcotics expert has given Cambodian customs officers a three-week

course on drug detection techniques in the hope of slowing a growing trend for

heroin to be shipped through Cambodia.

Edward Schach, the US Customs

Inspector whose coordinating the program, said: "We suspect Cambodia is the new

vulnerable region for the international shipment of heroin to the United States

and Europe. At this point we have to stop the problem before it gets very

large."

Schach said he is worried about Cambodia being used as a

transport hub for the international distribution of drugs grown in large

quantities in neighboring countries.

He said: "Many people here do not

show much concern about drugs, and they lack the experience to operate detection

systems which stop the free flow of drugs into and out of

Cambodia."

"They do not understand what the problem is or are aware of

the dangers of heroin."

Schach trained 28 Cambodian officers, selected

from the Customs House Department of the Ministries of Defense and Interior, in

basic anti-drug enforcement techniques.

The Minister of Economics and

Finance, Sam Rainsy visited the training seminar. He said: "Because of

Cambodia's economic problems, poor education and inadequate laws drug

trafficking could become a very big problem here.

"Our people are very

poorly educated and don't even know there is any drug problem. There is no legal

framework for government administration to deal with the problem. Customs

officers don't even know what heroin looks like."

He said heroin

trafficking and drug use and addiction where increasing in the country and

appealed to the US to further strengthen ties to help stamp out the problem.

A government customs officer who requested anonymity said: "We have no

reason to look for heroin because we have no knowledge or awareness about what

it is, and no equipment to test substances to find out what they

are.

"Last year we arrested a trafficker carrying seven kg of heroin from

Thailand into Cambodia through a remote point along the northern border.

"He told us the trafficking routes are arranged from Bangkok to Poipet,

Poipet to Phnom Penh and Phnom Penh to Vietnam and then onto the United States,

or European countries."

"Most of the drug smuggling in Cambodia is

organized by foreign traders, but Cambodians are often hired to provide

transport.

"We are have poor security in this country and there are many

entrances along the Thai and Laos borders where drugs can be brought in."

He said: "Cambodian border officers do not care much about what is legal

or illegal trading.

"They prefer to be paid bribes to allow weapons or

drugs through than to make an effort to protect the country from these things."

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