A few days after Interior Minister Sar Kheng addressed critics over a lack of arrests when it comes to drug ringleaders, the National Authority for Combatting Drugs yesterday issued a report noting that authorities have apprehended a dozen suspected ringleaders and 52 of their associates during the first five months of this year.
On Tuesday, Mr Kheng said Facebook users criticised the government for not daring to arrest powerful drug dealers. He said the critics circulated false information.
“They said police arrested only small time criminals, and no ringleaders have been identified,” he said. “I just want to show a list of powerful people in the drug business that we detained. There are so many.”
According to the NACD report, 12 ringleaders and 52 associates were arrested, and 288.38 kilograms of illicit drugs were seized in 20 large-scale anti-drug operations.
It noted that police have handled a total of 3,335 cases so far and arrested 7,097 people while seizing 310.89 kilograms of drugs and 47,103 marijuana plants.
It said that police have raided 3,741 nightclubs and KTVs, or 52 percent of 7,113 nightclubs and KTVs across the Kingdom.
It added that three nightclubs and one KTV in Phnom Penh and one nightclub in Siem Reap province were raided recently, leading to the arrests of dozens.
It said police are now looking to arrest six more people suspected of being connected to drug distribution networks in the nightclubs and KTVs.
NACD secretary-general General Meas Vyrith told reporters yesterday that the suspects are now being investigated, noting that they are not police or government officials.
“They are not police officials. We have not identified ringleaders who are government officials or powerful people,” Gen Vyrith said. “Our experts are now gathering evidence to identify who they really are, in order to [crackdown on] their networks and accomplices.”
National Police spokesman Lieutenant General Chhay Kim Khoeun yesterday said during a meeting led by National Police chief General Neth Savoeun that cracking down on nightclubs and KTVs is the main focus to prevent drug distribution.
Lt Gen Kim Khoeun said the crackdowns have been a success.
“It is due to the joint participation of relevant officials,” he said. “Because of this, crackdowns on drug use and distribution in nightclubs and KTVs have fruitful results.”
Lt Gen Kim Khoeun noted that anti-drug police encounter problems during their operations due to the complexities of drug trades and trafficking from neighbouring countries.
He said some police officers were hesitant and lacked confidence to crack down on drug crimes without an order from their commanders, adding that the problem was addressed during the meeting.
“We made a new decision during the meeting. Police can now take action at any time when they suspect a drug crime is happening,” Lt Gen Kim Khoeun said. “They only need to wait for an order when the case is serious.”
Yong Kim Eng, president of the People Centre for Development and Peace, said local level authorities should be trained by the national anti-drug police on how to identify illegal substances.
“Commune [police] should take the lead in cracking down on drug crimes because they are close to the people,” Mr Kim Eng said. “I also think that more drug rehabilitation centres are needed.”
“If we fail to cope with the problem on time, more victims will fall into drug use,” he added.