Countries along the Mekong River have vowed to increase co-operation in cracking down on and preventing drug trafficking from the Golden Triangle area and the import of chemical substances for drug production.
The pledge was made as the six Mekong River nations – Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and China – wrapped up a meeting on the implementation of a Mekong River safety project in Phnom Penh on Sunday.
Meas Virith, the secretary-general of the General Secretariat of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, told The Post on Sunday that during the meeting the six governments made joint assessments of their clampdown on drug trafficking, which they said had increased and posed serious threats to countries along the river.
Virith said that over the first three months of this year, the six nations had busted more than 3,198 cases in which drugs weighing more than 1kg were trafficked. The operations resulted in the arrest of 3,440 suspects, a notable increase compared to the same period last year.
“Criminal groups are still ambitious in producing drugs at a low cost and selling it for a high profit. They spend only $300 to produce 1kg of drugs.
“And if they sell it in Japan or Australia, it can fetch up to $700,000 or $800,000. In Cambodia, it is between $30,000 and $50,000, which encourages criminals to take risks,” he said.
Virith said the countries that made the most clampdowns on drugs weighing more than 1kg were China, Myanmar and Thailand, which he noted had a higher population.
Cambodia saw only 19 such cases. He said drug traffickers had not taken deep root in the Kingdom, while the market remained relatively small compared to other countries in the region.
He said the low numbers of traffickers caught was also because Cambodian authorities had made greater efforts in eliminating and preventing drug trafficking.
But the Mekong River countries as a whole, he said, had seen more crackdowns as armed drug trafficking groups continued to expand their influence in producing and distributing drugs.
“We do whatever we can to cooperate in sharing information so that we can keep up with the situation and prevent the influx of drugs from the producing area known as the Golden Triangle and a market for drug use.
“We have also made efforts inpreventing the import of chemical substances from China and India for producing drugs,” he said.
He said the six countries vowed to jointly combat drug trafficking and the import of chemical substances from the Golden Triangle area more effectively in order to protect the wellbeing, security and order of the people living in the region.
He said the trafficking of synthesised drugs had threatened the welfare, safety, security and public order throughout the region, warranting stronger joint cooperation among the six countries.
Meas Sovann, the president of the Drug Addict Relief Association of Cambodia (Darac), said drug trafficking in Cambodia remained at a much smaller scale compared to other Mekong river countries, making crackdown difficult.
He said drug use in the Kingdom had not seen dramatic decrease despite strong efforts by Cambodian authorities.
“Now drugs have even spread to rural areas. Wherever people live, drugs arrive. But the government has been attentive in preventing and cracking down on drug trafficking and consumption,” he said.
Sovann urged the authorities to step up investigations, locate places that produce drugs, and identify ringleaders behind drug distribution. He called for serious punishment for corrupt, powerful officials who back traffickers through their intervention in drug cases.
During the 14th World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims on November 24, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sar Kheng noted a noticeable decrease in drug dealing following a series of high-profile crackdowns.
“We can say that our anti-drug campaign has proved significantly successful. This is our initial assessment. It’s due to our crackdown on all entertainment places that allowed drug distribution in Phnom Penh.
“We confiscated a total of one tonne of drugs … it was not simple. We seized one tonne of drugs imported from Laos through land, postal mail and airports,” he said.
He said the drugs were not only for use in Cambodia but also for distribution to neighbouring countries including Vietnam and Thailand.
Had the authorities and relevant parties failed to combat it on time, he said drugs would further spread to rural areas.
The website of the General Commissariat of the National Police said there were 23 cases of nationwide drug crackdowns on Saturday. Authorities arrested 56 suspects, nine of them women. Of the 56, 44 were drug traffickers and 12 drug users.