Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cops tout more drug arrests, but note smaller busts

Cops tout more drug arrests, but note smaller busts

Bags of cocaine are weighed after they were seized at the Phnom Penh International Airport in a bust earlier this month. National Police
Bags of cocaine are weighed after they were seized at the Phnom Penh International Airport in a bust earlier this month. National Police

Cops tout more drug arrests, but note smaller busts

Cambodia’s National Police claim to have netted 1,000 more drug suspects in the past nine months compared to the same period last year, but brought in a significantly lower haul, a result that prompted observers to urge police to prioritise large-scale dealers over “small fish”.

The police reports revealed a total of 2,265 cases and more than 5,000 people arrested over the past nine months (between December 2015 and August), compared to 1,668 cases and 3,402 people over the same period in the previous year.

However, this year more than 60 kilograms of drugs, mostly methamphetamine, were confiscated, down from some 80 kilograms last year.

The director of the National Police’s anti-drug trafficking department, Khieu Saman, said the figures were touted by National Police Commissioner Neth Savoeun on Friday, who also urged police to follow their arrested suspects through the court process.

“There are cases where the suspects received lighter punishments than the actual crimes they committed because of their lawyers,” Saman said.

“We try very hard to crack down on the cases, but when the suspects receive a lesser fine than what they actually deserve, it is not good.”

Legal expert Sok Sam Oeun noted it was the duty of defence lawyers to fight for lower penalties for their clients by challenging police evidence, which he said was often scant in drug cases, adding “that very few cases are drug dealers” as opposed to small-time users or delivery men.

Huy Hoeurn, deputy general of prisons, said the significant increase in arrests led to overcrowding at Prey Sar prison, which he said holds 1,500 drug-related prisoners.

“Most of the problems we encounter are because the number of prisoners is increasing sharply due to prisoners who are engaging in drug trafficking,” he said.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said the order to follow up cases closely could be cause for “major concern” if local police were facing pressure to secure more convictions, adding that “such pressure results in police taking short cuts in investigation procedures”.

Political analyst Ou Virak, meanwhile, pointed out that the math of higher arrests and lower yields meant police were only capturing the “smaller fish”, adding that more jail time did not equate to fewer drug problems. “I think unless we have a way to treat addicts, they are probably going to fall back in their own habits.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Siem Reap drain canal now ‘mangrove’ promenade

    A more than half a kilometre long stretch of canal in Siem Reap has been covered and turned into a promenade to attract visitors, said Ly Rasmey, secretary of state at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, on September 16. The new pedestrianised

  • Angkor wildlife, aquarium park still to open October

    The Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium complex about 30km southeast of Siem Reap town with initial total investment of more than $70 million is reportedly still on track for an end-October opening. The park is located on a 100ha plot along National Road 6 in Kbon village, Khchas

  • Final verdicts for Khmer Rouge leaders ‘vital’ for next generation

    Nearly a decade after the commencement of Case 002/02 against Khieu Samphan back in 2014, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) is now set to deliver its final verdict for the former Khmer Rouge head of state. The Supreme Court Chamber of the ECCC,

  • Defence minister reaffirms Kingdom’s staunch support for One-China policy

    Minister of National Defence General Tea Banh has reaffirmed Cambodia’s unwavering support for the One-China policy. Tea Banh was speaking at the September 20 ceremonial handover of 117 vehicles and other military equipment donated by China’s defence ministry, held at Phnom Chumreay International Military Training

  • Deaths due to ‘lifestyle’ diseases rise in Kingdom

    The Ministry of Health has called on people to pay closer attention to their health to protect themselves from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) which it said have caused high rates of deaths in the country. Ministry secretary of state York Sambath made the call at a

  • Textile industry minimum wage now $200

    The official minimum wage for workers in textile-related sectors including garment, footwear, and travel goods for 2023 was pegged at $198, with Prime Minister Hun Sen stepping in to add $2 to the total, making it $200 per month. The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training made the announcement