Two Stung Treng province lieutenant police commanders were arrested in connection with drug trafficking after an early September raid on their homes found 500 grams of methamphetamine, officials have told the Post.
Chou Pi Chhoura, chief of Stung Treng Penal Police Office and top provincial anti-drug-trafficking official said on September 28 that Lao Sokeat, 49, lieutenant police commander and chief of intelligence police in the northeast, and Leong Monirak, 40, also a lieutenant commander were sent to the provincial prison on September 13.
He said that anti-drug-trafficking police arrested Sokeat and Monirak on September 11 after weeks of surveillance. Pi Chhoura said the two men confessed that the methamphetamine was received from an unnamed Laotian man at the border.
"I think that the police connection with the drug trafficking will not affect the dignity of police as a whole because they were not on duty and it was for individual benefit," Chhoura said. "But if there are many police officials connected with drug trafficking, and the situation becomes out of control, then it would be dangerous to society."
Chhoura said that a navy police official based in Stung Treng was also found with illegal drugs but escaped into the jungle when the anti-trafficking squad went to arrest him on June 28. As he fled ahead of the manhunt, Chhoura said the man discarded 1,773 pills of methamphetamines and deserted his motorbike.
Sim Sophal, deputy secretary general of the National Police, said at a meeting with municipal and provincial police chiefs on September 7 that many provincial police chiefs are unaware of the widespread trafficking of drugs in areas under their control.
He specifically referred to an incident in Banteay Meanchey province in which two police officers were caught stealing drugs after they confiscated them. He did not identify them by name.
"Two police officials were caught stealing drugs and replacing them with white flour," Sophal said. "Then they tried to put the blame on each other."
He said that six police officials in Battambang province were also connected with narcotics cases being investigated by the provincial court.
"Drugs are now widespread everywhere in the public areas of the municipalities and provinces, but you [police] don't see it and fail to report to the ministry," Sophal said.
Lour Ramin, secretary general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD), told the Post on September 28 that he agreed with the criticism by his colleague, but that the cases linking police officers to drug trafficking were not connected.
He said that those found guilty would be punished, expelled from government positions or jailed in accordance with the level of their crime.
He said police still lack knowledge about the laws on drugs and basic training about how to implement them.
Akira Fujino, representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime for East Asia and the Pacific, told the Post by e-mail that Cambodian law enforcement institutions often lack sufficient technical capacity as well as resources.
"Weakness in drug control laws, and reportedly corruption, have hampered effective law enforcement. While a new drug control law has just been enacted, its full implementation is now required," Fujino said.
But Ramin said a recent NACD report on drug activity during the first nine months of 2006 showed that the situation of drugs trafficking and law enforcement has improved from 2005.