Nearly 20,000 units of unauthorised drugs, including Chinese herbal medicine and aphrodisiac substances, were confiscated during crackdowns on three different locations in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district late last month.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, the Ministry of Interior’s Counter Counterfeit Committee chairman Meach Sophanna, who is also the ministry’s secretary of state, said police on March 27 had raided three shops on a street near O’Russey Market.
After receiving a tip-off from different sources, the authorities launched the clampdown and seized 18,160 units of drugs which are not registered with the ministry, including unlicenced sex enhancement substances for men and women, and expired medicine, he said.
The evidence was displayed at the Tuesday press conference where Sophanna also said the police are preparing legal action against the owners of the shops.
“We did not arrest the culprits immediately because they had fled. Right now, our forces are preparing the documents and will send this case to court,” Sophanna said.
He said experts will determine whether the medicines are fake or could cause health problems by running tests at a laboratory.
He continued that the authorities were gathering additional information to find more unauthorised drugs at other locations, including from online vendors.
Sophanna said the confiscated goods were brought into the Kingdom through different borders and by various modes of transport. Prior to the recent crackdown, he said, the authorities had uncovered 10 similar offences in the past four months.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sar Kheng had on March 12 ordered the arrest of counterfeit goods traffickers following a Counter Counterfeit Committee seizure of more than 70 tonnes of fake and tainted goods.
The haul included 106 types of medicines totalling 400g, 5,520 boxes of ‘Evian’ drinking water weighing 62,640kg, and 7,850kg of agricultural fertilisers.
Punishments ‘not strict enough’
The minister stressed that the products had the potential to harm consumers and that he agreed with his officials who stated that the punishments for those who traffic counterfeit goods were not strict enough.
The Law on the Management of Quality and Safety of Products and Services bans counterfeiting goods, and stipulates that any attempt to do so will be punished by articles 63 and 64 that carry a prison sentence of one month to one year, along with a fine of five million to 10 million riel ($1,250 to $2,500), he said.
Affiliated Network for Social Accountability executive director San Chey said police repeatedly cracked down on the same crimes with the same suspects.
He suggested that this was because powerful officials were behind some cases and were colluding with suspects in return for bribes.
According to the Counter Counterfeit Committee’s report released last month, joint police forces led by the committee last year successfully tackled 20 cases of counterfeit goods.