Sar Kheng addresses critics over drug busts

Taing Vida / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
An officer stands guard as authorities burn kilos of drugs seized in 2018. KT/Chor Sokunthea

In the midst of crackdowns on drugs in the past few months, Interior Minister Sar Kheng yesterday reacted to online critics who accused the government of not arresting powerful drug ringleaders.

According to Mr Kheng, Facebook users have criticised the government for not daring to arrest powerful drug dealers. He also said the critics have 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.”

Mr Kheng said critics should cooperate with the authorities and report drug distribution activities so police can take action against drug dealers.

“Police are working hard to combat and prevent drug distribution, so please join us,” he said. “You can’t just criticise like that.”

“Although we arrested many ringleaders, I believe there are more and the main ringleaders are not in the country,” he said. “Nowadays, drug producers and distributors can make orders in just a few minutes.”

Yong Kim Eng, president of the People Centre for Development and Peace, yesterday welcomed Mr Kheng’s statement, but noted that the authorities should address concerns highlighted by critics.

“It’s rare for police to arrest ringleaders of large drug cases,” Mr Kim Eng said. “This is why many people are still concerned.”

“I hope the government would consider the critics, improve and prove to the public,” he added.

Mr Kheng’s remarks came after police raided and found drugs in three major nightclubs in Phnom Penh, with the most recent being Luxurious nightclub.

On June 8 at about 2am, Phnom Penh police raided the club in Daun Penh district and arrested 408 people. Police seized 62.7 grams of illicit drugs and various drug-related equipment.

The following week, Phnom Penh Governor Khuong Sreng requested Phnom Penh Municipal Court to issue an arrest warrant in order to have the club owner, identified as a Vietnamese national, arrested.

Court spokesman Ly Sophanna said last week that a total of 17 people were charged with drug trafficking, facilitating drug use, possessing drugs or being accomplices to the crimes.

Mr Sophanna said that the case has now been sent to the investigating judge and the suspects have been placed in pre-trial detention.

The suspects, including a Chinese national, five Vietnamese, and 11 Cambodians, worked in the club as managers, accountants and security guards, he added. They were among 93 people who tested positive for drug use after the raid at the nightclub.

General Meas Vyrith, secretary general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, yesterday said police encounter difficulties when hunting down ringleaders.

“Those ringleaders rarely appear in public. They escape and go from place to place,” Gen Vyrith said. “Police need time to gather information and evidence, that’s why it takes time.”

He noted that there are five large drug syndicates currently operating globally, and most of the ringleaders arrested in Cambodia were from West Africa or China.

According to the NACD, during the first three months of this year, anti-drug police handled 2,047 drug cases and arrested 4,434 people.

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