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

  • Angkor Wat named as the top landmark for the second year

    Travel website TripAdvisor has named Cambodia’s ancient wonder Angkor Wat as the top landmark in the world for the second year running in their Travelers’ Choice Award 2018, an achievement Cambodian tourism operators expect will attract more tourists to the Kingdom. The website uses traveller

  • New US bill ‘is a violation of Cambodian independence’

    After a US congressmen introduced bipartisan legislation that will enact sanctions on Cambodian officials responsible for “undermining democracy” in the Kingdom, government officials and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party on Sunday said they regarded the potential action as the “violation of independence and sovereignty

  • Hun Sen detractors ‘will die’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday said those who curse or insult him would eventually die without a plot of land to bury their bodies after being killed by lightning, suffering the same fate as those who recently died in Thmar Baing district in Koh

  • Ministry’s plan for net sparks fears

    The government has ordered all domestic and international internet traffic in the Kingdom to pass through a Data Management Centre (DMC) that has been newly created by the state-owned Telecom Cambodia, in a move some have claimed is an attempt to censor government critics. Spokesman