Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - 'Ecstasy oil' seized in Pursat

'Ecstasy oil' seized in Pursat

'Ecstasy oil' seized in Pursat

090828_02
A dump truck and barrels of oil used to manufacture Ecstasy sit idle in Pursat province after being confiscated by Forestry Administration officials last week.

Rangers discover 2,600 litres hidden in the bottom of a truck, as conservationists decry the devastating effects of harvesting the mreah prov trees from the forests.

FORESTRY Administration officials seized 2,600 litres of sassafras oil used to manufacture the drug MDMA, or "Ecstasy", last week in a major drug bust in Pursat province, government officials and conservationists said Thursday.

The oil, which is extracted from the wood of trees known in Khmer as mreah prov, was discovered on August 19 in barrels below the false bottom of a dump truck driven by Lim Pim, a 27-year-old Vietnamese man who was arrested at the scene, according to the environmental group Conservation International (CI). He was driving to Pursat town from the Phnom Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary in Veal Veng district.

Mok Dara, director of the Interior Ministry's Anti-Drug Department, said the oil has been regulated by drug control laws since 2006 due to its role in drug or illicit substance production, and that authorities around the country have become increasingly focused on it.

"There are five cases already that have happened in Cambodia in 2009, in Battambang, Kampong Chhnang and Pursat provinces," he said.

Last week's arrest in Pursat was made by rangers from the Forestry Administration's Central Cardamom Protected Forest enforcement team, a targeted project funded in part by CI.

CI became interested in this issue in the early 2000s, after noting the severe toll that the harvesting of the oil had taken on the Kingdom's forests, said David Emmett, the organisation's regional director.

Oil extracted from trees in Cambodia is typically transported across the border to Vietnam for refinement.

To generate enough oil for cross-border trafficking, Emmett said, producers cut down trees at a rapid rate, a process devastating to local ecosystems.

"It's like this cancerous growth in the forest," Emmett said. Cambodian production is centred in the Cardamom mountains of the southwest, and in the forests of the northeast.

Rural producers can expect to make around US$10 per kilogram of oil, Emmett said, "but when it gets out to Phnom Penh and Hanoi, it becomes massively more valuable".

Seng Bora, also of CI, estimated that the oil seized in last week's bust would have netted producers perhaps US$50,000, though by the time it reached the border, it could have been worth up to $270,000.

In June, rangers seized 5.2 tonnes of the oil in a single bust - the largest ever of sassafras oil in Cambodia, officials said at the time.

MOST VIEWED

  • EU officials: Ending EBA an 18-month procedure

    EU officials have confirmed that it will take a total of 18 months to complete the procedure if Cambodia’s preferential Everything But Arms (EBA) trade agreement is to be withdrawn. According to EU Agriculture and Rural Development spokesman Daniel Rosario, the formal process has not

  • IPU slams government claim

    The president of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), Gabriela Cuevas Barron, has refuted a claim by the National Assembly that she “highly appreciated the achievements of Cambodia” in its July national elections with a tweet saying “Of course not!” before adding “No congratulations”. A delegation from

  • Sam Rainsy, government group set to clash at IPU Geneva meet?

    Opposition figure Sam Rainsy has been invited to speak at the General Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in Geneva, according to a former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) lawmaker. A government delegation is also set to attend the meeting, a National Assembly press release

  • Conflict lingers on Paris Accords

    As the Kingdom prepares to commemorate on October 23 the 27th anniversary of the signing of the 1991 Paris Peace Accords, which ushered in an end to nearly two decades of civil war, there is political conflict on whether the tenets of the agreement are still being