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Kampot Police Official Arrested for Drug Possession

FILE - Confiscated drugs burned during a ceremony to mark the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, June 26, 2018. REUTERS/Samrang Pring

A Kampot deputy police chief and two other suspects have been arrested and sent to court for allegedly trafficking two kilograms of methamphetamine.

Im Chhun, Kampot’s deputy police chief, and two accomplices – Keo Tith Mesa, a police officer, and a civilian named Hong Kea - were the targets of a police raid on April 6 in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district, according to a National Police official. Officers confiscated 1.7 kilograms of methamphetamine during the raid.

Mok Chito, deputy National Police chief in charge of combating drugs, said that Im Chhun and his associates had been handed to court prosecutors and that authorities will continue to arrest other suspects.

“We sent them to the prosecutors. The charge would be decided later…but we accused him of storing and trafficking drugs illegally,” Mok Chito said.

Kuch Kimlong, the spokesperson for the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, could not be reached for comment on Friday.

The government has embarked on a three-year drug crackdown, which has mostly netted small-time dealers or users caught in possession of drugs but has not seen the arrest of any major traffickers and dealers.

The police arrested 21,566 people linked to 10,461 drug-related crimes in 2020, up from 20,490 people arrested in 2019, according to National Police statistics.

Interior Minister Sar Kheng said around 3 tons of drugs were seized in 2020, which is higher than in 2019. During a meeting on commune safety policies in January, Sar Kheng called on local authorities to eliminate drug trafficking in the communes.

Yun Phally, human rights coordinator for ADHOC in Kampot, said this was the first time a senior police officer was arrested for drug trafficking and only junior officials had been arrested in the past.

He said drug use was previously limited to the provincial town but has spread to other areas.

“It has spread to rural areas, meaning it has spread to the entire province, and there are drug uses in each district [of the province],” he added.

Am Sam Ath, deputy director for monitoring at rights group Licadho, said Cambodia’s prisons were overcrowded because authorities continued to arrest only minor drug dealers and users.

"Major traffickers, smugglers, and drug producers were rarely arrested," said Am Sam Ath.

“If we talk about prisons, they are more crowded due to these drug issues. So, it’s a matter that we need to enforce the laws strictly from the grassroots up to the national level,” he said.