More than two tonnes of seized illicit drugs were set on fire on Wednesday, with Minister of Interior Sar Kheng warning at the ceremony that action would be taken against officials involved in the trade.
A National Authority for Combating Drugs report showed that the drugs were seized over a span of more than two years from June 2017 to June this year.
Among the haul were heroin, methamphetamine, amphetamine, ecstasy, ketamine and nimetazepam. It was recently ruled that the haul would be destroyed at Wednesday’s drug burning ceremony at Koh Pich Theatre in Phnom Penh.
At the ceremony, held to mark the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, Sar Kheng said that although a large-scale crackdown on drugs was ongoing in the Kingdom, he remained concerned about the issue.
He said the authorities were fighting regional syndicates smuggling drugs through Cambodia.
“Some nefarious persons continue to traffic drugs, using all means and tricks, to make Cambodian people suffer by becoming drug users, distributors and dealers,” he said.
Recent months have seen raids on rented houses, guesthouses and a number of high-profile entertainment venues. Sar Kheng encouraged the authorities to increase their efforts on this front and warned officials complicit in the trade that they would face the full force of the law.
“If our officials are involved [in the drug trade], it will make the drug raids unsuccessful. Or even if they are not involved directly, but serve as towers of strength to drugs dealers, that will cause our efforts to fail,” he said.
Sar Kheng also gave an interview to reporters at the event after his speech, saying: “If there is police involvement [in drugs], legal measures are to be taken.
“As I said earlier, an official from the Rock Entertainment Centre went into hiding for more than a month in Battambang province. We have just arrested him.”
However, Sar Kheng declined to comment about the recent drug raid on the Luxurious nightclub earlier this month, referring questions to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court as the case is ongoing.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court Deputy Prosecutor Kuch Kimlong could not be reached for comment.
On the night of June 8, more than 400 people were detained at Phnom Penh’s Luxurious nightclub over drugs offences. At least 20 suspects were sent to court and convicted on drugs charges, while the club’s owner is yet to be identified.
The director of the Drug Addict Relief Association of Cambodia, Meas Sovann, said setting drugs on fire was a positive thing. He said raids, like those conducted on The Rock Entertainment Centre and Luxurious nightclub, would likely reduce the number of drug ringleaders.
“Raids have gradually been conducted and if there are direct orders like this, it could somewhat decrease the number of dealers and distributors,” he said.
Prey Veng provincial police statistics this month show that in June alone, the province conducted eight drugs raids, detained 51 suspects on drugs charges and seized nearly 50 packets of drugs, as well as drug paraphernalia.
“There are five pending cases of keeping, transporting or dealing illegal substances, with 10 suspects [including two women]. There are also three pending cases of illegal drug use with 41 suspects detained, of whom three are women,” provincial deputy police chief Thong Vandy said.