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US, Australia assist in drugs case

US, Australia assist in drugs case

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090327_03.jpg

Foreign anti-drugs specialists come to Kingdom to help national police identify ten chemicals found after two tonnes of illegal substances seized in raids on four drugs laboratories.

Photo by:
HENG CHIVOAN 

UN and government officials set fire to the last major batch of seized drugs and precursor chemicals in 2008.

UNITED States and Australian police are working with Cambodian anti-drugs specialists to test illicit substances seized in a major drug raid last weekend, officials said Thursday.

In one of the most significant raids of the past two years, national police confiscated more than 2 tonnes of illegal substances from four drugs laboratories over the weekend in three different provinces. Four people were arrested.

Moek Dara, the director of the Anti-Trafficking Department at the Ministry of Interior, said the laboratories were in possession of nearly a dozen different illicit chemicals.

"This raid didn't happen by chance. Cambodian police have investigated this for three months, but now we need the assistance of US and Australian anti-drugs experts because there are up to 10 different kinds of chemicals that are outside our testing capacity," he told the Post Thursday.

Ephedra seized

Moek Dara said the most common chemical seized was ephedra, a precursor chemical used in the manufacture of methamphetamine. Moek

Dara said the precursor was probably imported in December from either China or the Middle East.

"What we are doing now is separating likely hazardous chemicals from knownhazardous ones because we don't know what kinds of chemicals they are, " Moek Dara added.

John Johnson, a spokesman for the US embassy, confirmed Thursday that an agent from the US anti-drugs agency was headed to Phnom Penh to assist with the investigation.

"At the request of the Cambodian government, the Drug Enforcement Agency is sending an agent to provide support to the national police,

who are taking the lead in this investigation," he said. "[But] as this is an open investigation, we can't discuss any other details at this time."

Fiona Cochaud, deputy head of mission and first secretary at the Australian embassy, told the Post that five experts from the Australian Federal Police were working to "assess and dismantle clandestine chemical laboratories located in Phnom Penh, Kampong Cham and Takeo [provinces]."

Cambodians Sieng Lonh, 52, and Khun Sam, 53, were arrested last weekend along with two Chinese men, Mi Guang, 52, and Gao Xiao Ging, 36, in three different drugs laboratory raids in Kampong Cham and Phnom Penh. Police also raided a laboratory in Takeo province, but the suspect had already fled.

Local media sources reported Thursday that the laboratories had the capacity to produce drugs with a street value estimated at some US$3 billion, but Moek Dara refuted that.

"We cannot estimate the value [of the haul] because we don't yet know how many kilograms of chemicals there were," he said.

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