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Police involved in Rock drugs ring, says Sar Kheng

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The Rock Entertainment Centre on Monivong Boulevard in the capital’s Tonle Bassac commune on March 6. Heng Chivoan

Police involved in Rock drugs ring, says Sar Kheng

Minister of Interior Sar Kheng said on Tuesday that police officers were involved in the distribution of nearly 50kg of drugs at the capital’s Rock Entertainment Centre, which led to the arrest of its owner, prominent businessman Kith Theang, and its closure after a raid last month.

Sar Kheng vowed that the Ministry of Interior will not hesitate to arrest the police officers involved and called on the authorities to increase efforts to combat drugs and in no way be involved in them.

“Police officers were involved in the drugs crime at the Rock and we will now look to arrest them. We must be firm in doing so and must further continue such efforts,” he said.

Sar Kheng was speaking at the closing of a conference at the Phnom Penh Municipal Hall outlining its 2018 achievements and goals for this year.

“[The authorities] must introduce strict measures for the owners of places of entertainment, hotels and guesthouses to prevent the use of drugs and their trafficking and distribution."

“The leaders of security forces and civil servants must ensure you are clean and not involved with drugs. In the fight against illegal drugs, you must educate people and raise the awareness as to the consequences of their use to all citizens,” he said.

National Police spokesman Chhay Kim Khoeun told The Post on Wednesday that he could not yet confirm how many police officers were involved in the Rock club drugs case as arrests would be made step by step.

“The term ‘involved’ sometimes means facilitation and sometimes conspiracy. We must not allow the officers concerned to walk free because they were involved in a felony. If [we] have to shoot to kill them, [we] will shoot to kill them,” he said.

Sar Kheng said drugs were increasingly prevalent in Phnom Penh and spreading to the provinces, with more than half a tonne seized in Cambodia by authorities last year, while drug-related crimes were growing in the capital.

He urged the authorities to remember that combating drugs was a strategic duty for 2019-20 and the subsequent years.

“Previously only Phnom Penh was affected by the trafficking, distribution, and use of drugs, but now some rural areas are facing the problem."

“As we saw with the raid at the Rock Entertainment Centre and some clubs in Siem Reap that we have cracked down on, those using drugs were all youths. So it comes at a human cost."

“Drugs harm people’s health and seriously affect society because users can turn to crime. They also affect the [national] budget in the cost of rehabilitating users and other measures that have to be taken,” he said.

San Chey, the executive director of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, said police officers’ involvement with drugs is not surprising as law enforcement is still lax, leading to corruption.

“While people know that trafficking and distributing drugs is illegal, some still do it to make themselves rich quickly."

“Searching for the drug dealers and others involved in the Rock case, such as police officers, should not be difficult because more than 300 people were held in the raid."

“They must be able to say who distributed the drugs there, so I believe it is possible to arrest those involved if there is a real will by the Ministry of Interior, especially political will in cracking down on drug cases involving police officers,” he said.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court charged Theang with facilitating the illegal use of drugs and conspiracy. He is being detained in Phnom Penh’s Police Judiciare prison with 17 other people involved in the case.

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