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US Adds More Money for Drug Bust Clean-Up

The US government announced Wednesday a donation of $80,000 to help Cambodia destroy nearly 5 tons of drug-making material seized in a raid earlier this year.

The contribution put the total US effort for the clean-up at $140,000, a US Embassy statement said.

Cambodian authorities discovered a so-called "super lab" for methamphetamine pills in Kampong Speu in April, leading to numerous arrests and the seizure of potentially lethal chemicals used in drug production.

"The United States applauds the work of the Ministry of the Interior, including the National Authority for Combating Drugs, the Anti-Drug Police, provincial police, and other officials in discovering the methamphetamine lab, arresting the suspects, and securing the scene," the embassy statement said.

"The discovery of a large methamphetamine lab in Kampong Speu marks a significant change in Cambodia's growing drug problem," the statement said. "Now, in addition to being a transit and consumption country, we have evidence that Cambodia is a country where drugs are also produced. This development only serves to underscore the seriousness of the drug issue here."

With the help of the US and the UN, authorities have already begun destroying the meth-making material, including nearly 3 tons of "highly dangerous" thionyl chloride, a second US Embassy statement said.

The US contribution was welcome in an expensive endeavor, Interior Ministry spokesman Lt. Gen. Khieu Sopheak said.

"We have to spend money to buy substances to detoxify and then we put the poison to waste," he said. "The important expenses are made on taking raw materials and detoxifying the chemicals as components to make the drugs."

April's raid led to the arrest earlier this month of Oum Chhay, a high-ranking figure alleged to be involved in the drug-production operation.

Oum Chhay fell to his death Monday. Police said he lept from the building in an apparent suicide while officers on duty were using the restroom.

A second man arrested in connection with the drugs, Chea Chong, is being held for questioning at Prey Sar prison.