A joint investigation has been launched into a network of drug traffickers who had transported their contraband via Cambodia after Hong Kong customs officials detained two people suspected of smuggling more than 51kg of methamphetamines from Cambodia by sea to the Port of Hong Kong on February 18.
Deputy National Police chief Mok Chito said he had not yet received information from Hong Kong anti-drug authorities about the suspects’ identities.
“For those arrested on site, they will be prosecuted there, but we also have to cooperate to get information from the Hong Kong side to see who else are involved and where they are now so that we can make arrests.
“For example, if they are in Laos we will push the Lao authorities to arrest them,” he said.
Chito added that in the investigation, Hong Kong is considered the final destination and Cambodia as midway point for smuggling operations as the drugs could have been transported from the Golden Triangle – Laos, Myanmar and Thailand.
“Now, we are cooperating with Cambodian and Hong Kong customs officials to determine the source of drug smuggling from Cambodia. We have also cooperated with relevant countries to learn of the arrested suspects’ identities and their networks so that we can investigate and crack down on them together,” he said.
Chito said Cambodian authorities had arrested many people in such drug smuggling cases in the past. He noted that previously most had smuggled drugs by land, but now by water.
“After Covid-19 emerged, smugglers changed tactics. Previously, smuggling was by land. Now, they mostly smuggle by water by two routes – via Laos then across Cambodia, and the other via Thailand then across Cambodia.
“In the past, we had arrested groups with 200kg of drugs, some with 180kg and some with more than 100kg,” he said.
Kun Nhem, director-general of the General Department of customs and Excise, and Meas Virith, secretary-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, could be reached for comment on March 14.
Yong Kim Eng, president of the NGO People’s Centre for Development and Peace, said this is a big problem for Cambodia as the country was being used as a transit point. Kim Eng hoped that Cambodian authorities would cooperate with neighbouring countries to crack down on smugglers.
“Cooperation needs to be improved. If the problem persists, Cambodia and neighbours should find ways to increase cooperation. At the same time, relevant authorities have to be highly committed to fighting smuggling,” he said.