A 26-YEAR-OLD man was sent to Pursat provincial court yesterday on suspicion of transporting almost 1,000 kilograms of safrole-rich oil, a banned natural substance used in the manufacture of MDMA, an active ingredient in the drug ecstasy.
Sin Phalla, the administrative officer from Pursat provincial hall who filed the case to the court, said the man was arrested by police on Sunday as he was driving through Kravanh district along National Road 56A.
“The oil was stored in the bottom of the truck, where it can be hidden from police,” he said. “After siphoning it from the truck, we found that the oil could fill up to 28 tanks, weighting 977.30 kilograms.”
The tanks were confiscated and are now being kept at the Pursat provincial forestry administration office, he said.
Safrole-rich oil, which has legitimate uses in the chemical industry, is distilled from the roots of trees belonging to the sassafras family, known in Khmer as m’reah prov phnom.
A report on drug precursors released by the United Nations’ International Narcotics Control Board in 2008 stated that approximately 380 kilograms of pure safrole was required to produce 100 kilograms of MDMA.
Environmental groups say the illicit production of safrole poses a hazard to protected areas of forest.
Moek Dara, secretary general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, said yesterday that the trade in oil has been closely regulated since 2006, and that authorities around the country had become “increasingly focused” on cracking down on it.
Provincial court prosecutor Tup Chansereyvuth said he had heard of the case, but that he had not yet received the case file from forestry officials.