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Thursday, January 20, 2011

US embassy cables: Ousted Cambodian drugs tsar was trusted US source

Cable dated:2006-05-23T11:49:00

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/23/2016

1. (U) SUMMARY: May 19 and 20 arrests of two Taiwanese nationals attempting to smuggle a total of nearly 7 kg of heroin to Taiwan highlight increased drug arrests and seizures in Cambodia. The quantity of heroin seized during the weekend airport busts is large by Cambodian standards--authorities seized just 11 kg of heroin in 2005. Seizures of amphetamine-type stimulants are more than double last year's levels. Police and international observers credit USG and other foreign training with providing skills, motivation, and international pressure for the increase, but say that narcotics trafficking may also be on the rise. END SUMMARY.

Heroin Seizures at Phnom Penh International Airport

2. (U) Police and customs officials seized nearly 7 kg of heroin and arrested three Taiwanese nationals in two separate incidents at Phnom Penh International Airport on May 19 and 20. These two cases represent an impressive intake for one weekend given that in 2005 Cambodian authorities seized just over 11 kg of heroin.

3. (SBU) Chen Hsin Hung, 57, was arrested on May 19 carrying 4.75 kg of heroin with a local street value of USD 95,000 to 133,000. Customs officials became suspicious when they noticed that Hung was carrying several bags of imported Taiwanese foil-wrapped candies back to Taiwan in his hand luggage. The candies turned out to be foil-wrapped packages of heroin. Hung, who was due to travel to Taiwan via Kuala Lumpur on Malaysian Airlines flight 755, had arrived in Phnom Penh the previous day. During his police interrogation, Hung said that he had been picked up at the airport and returned to the airport by a couple, whom the police identified as a Cambodian woman and a mainland Chinese or Taiwanese man. Police are attempting to locate the couple.

4. (SBU) A second Taiwanese man, who was standing near Chen Hsin Hung during the security process, appeared to be quite interested in the proceedings and upset by Hung's arrest, and had tickets for the same flight as Hung, was also arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking. Moek Dara noted that the investigation had revealed no evidence to indicate that the second individual was also involved in drug smuggling, but that it was the prosecutor's decision how to proceed in the case.

5. (SBU) On May 20, a 90-year-old Taiwanese national named Huang Sang Hou was arrested at Phnom Penh International Airport with 1.9 kg of heroin, worth USD 38,000 to USD 53,000. Hou reportedly came to Cambodia as a tourist intending to gamble. Over the course of a week, he lost the USD 4,000 he brought with him, borrowed an additional USD 2,000 from a Taiwanese national in Phnom Penh, and then lost that money as well. The Taiwanese lender then persuaded Hou to carry the heroin back to Taiwan. Airport customs officials were tipped off by the sloppy manner in which the heroin was packed on Hou's body, making him appear bloated. Hou cooperated with the police in identifying the Taiwanese lender, and Cambodian government officials have already passed his name, address, and passport information to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Hou had been planning to fly Dragon Airlines flight 207 to Hong Kong, and then to continue on to Taiwan.

Amphetamine Seizures, Prices on the Rise


6. (SBU) According to statistics from the Ministry of Interior's Anti-Drug Police and the National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD), seizures of amphetamine-type stimulant (ATS) tablets more than doubled when comparing the first four months of 2006 with the first four months of 2005. From January to April 2006, more than 220,000 ATS tablets were seized, whereas from January to April 2005, approximately 87,000 ATS tablets were seized. The number of offenders arrested also rose from 154 from January to April 2005 to 204 during January to April 2006.

7. (U) Both Brigadier General Moek Dara, Director of the Anti-Drugs Department, and World Health Organization XXXXXXXXXXXX noted that prices for ATS tablets have risen in the past few years, with particularly dramatic increases in the past 12 months. One year ago, a single ATS tablet sold for approximately one dollar in Phnom Penh, but now costs two to three dollars. Moek Dara noted that prices rise as the ATS tablets make their way along the drug route, from fifty cents per tablet in Laos, where the

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majority are produced, to USD 3 in Cambodia, and then even higher prices in two destination countries: USD 4 in Vietnam and USD 7.50 in Thailand. XXXXXXXXXXXX cited anecdotal evidence from NGOs that some ATS users are switching to injecting heroin, currently available for USD 1.50 to 2 in Phnom Penh, as a cheaper alternative to rising ATS prices.

Lower Ecstasy Seizures Likely Point to Disrupted Network --------------------------------------------- -----------

8. (U) In contrast to the dramatic rise in ATS seizures, seizures of ecstasy tablets are down sharply, from 1,900 in January to April 2005 to less than 800 in January to April 2006. Moek Dara and XXXXXXXXXXXX believe that lower levels of ecstasy seizures are a sign that supply has been disrupted following a cooperative DEA/Anti-Drug Police controlled delivery operation against the Peter Brown drug ring in 2004 and continued Anti-Drug Police action against the ring in 2005.

USG Training Provides Needed Skills, International Pressure

--------------------------------------------- --------------

9. (SBU) Moek Dara gave much of the credit for the dramatic increase in heroin and ATS seizures and drug arrests to counternarcotics training funded by the State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) and conducted by the DEA. Before the training sessions, which were conducted in January and April 2006, police officers along Cambodia's porous northern border were not very active and would not even conduct foot patrols in the forest, according to Moek Dara. Now, however, the officers have more skills and are more motivated to patrol actively, he said, and have seized drugs and a lot of drug production equipment as well. Customs, immigration, and police officials at the airports are also better trained and more active, and Moek Dara noted that all of the officials involved in the weekend's airport arrests had completed DEA training.

10. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX gave partial credit for increased anti-drug activity to counternarcotics training by the US and other foreign donors. Some high-ranking Cambodian police and military officials are rumored to be complicit in narcotics trafficking, he noted. He speculated that the training and pressure on the Cambodian government to clamp down on drug activity has finally made an impression on higher ranking officials, and lower-level officers are "being allowed" to make more seizures. At the same time, such a dramatic increase is probably also an indication of efforts to traffic increased amounts of ATS through Cambodia, he opined.

Trainees Enthusiastic about INL/DEA Courses


11. (U) Provincial Anti-Drug Police officers who attended the January Basic Counternarcotics course reported uniformly enthusiastic assessments to an embassy follow-up survey. Participating police captains reported an increased awareness of drug smuggling tactics, best practices in seizing and preparing evidence, and how to identify drugs using field test kits. Captain Preap Sovann of the Svay Rieng Anti-Drug Police noted that the training also promoted inter-agency and inter-province cooperation as well. All captains reported training their staffs in the key topics covered by the DEA training, and captains in Koh Kong and Pursat provinces reported conducting anti-drug outreach to primary and secondary school students as well. Trainees suggested that future courses provide written materials in Khmer as well as English, include information on money laundering, have more laboratory equipment available for in-class practice in drug identification, and include more time in simulations.

Police Officer Arrested on Drug Charges


11. (C) Nov Sophal, a municipal police officer in the southern city of Kep, was arrested on April 15 and charged with trafficking 1 kg of heroin. Moek Dara was not expansive when asked about the case, noting simply that it is not uncommon for low-ranking police and military officials to be arrested for drug trafficking. In contrast, XXXXXXXXXXXX noted that drug investigations of police or military officials are very rare, and speculated that the individual involved may even have run afoul of rumored higher-level police involvement in narcotics.

12. (SBU) COMMENT: While increased smuggling activity may

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account for some of the increased seizures and arrests, it is clear that the Cambodian government is turning up the heat on the country's drug smugglers. Training from the USG and other countries is playing a critical role in supporting this effort--both through the skills and enthusiasm imparted to the participants, and also through the implicit expectations of improved performance on the part of the police and other officials.


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'Enemies of the People': One man's quest for truth about Cambodia's 'killing fields'

A movie review of "Enemies of the People," an intensely personal documentary that follows journalist Thet Sambath as he seeks the truth about the mass killings from 1975 to 1979 at the hands of Cambodia's Communist Khmer Rouge government.

By Stephen Holden
The New York Times

"Some say that almost two million people died in the killing fields," declares Thet Sambath, a polite, soft-spoken Cambodian journalist for The Phnom Penh Post, in the opening moments of the documentary "Enemies of the People." He adds, "Nobody understands why so many people were killed at that time."

Thus begins this intensely personal film, undertaken at some risk, in which Sambath seeks the truth about the mass killings from 1975 to 1979 at the hands of Cambodia's Communist Khmer Rouge government, which was responsible for the deaths of nearly a quarter of the country's population.

The heart of the film, a collaboration by Sambath and British documentarian Rob Lemkin, consists of meticulously cataloged interviews conducted during nearly a decade with perpetrators of the mass execution, many of them rural farmers. As they open up and matter-of-factly describe horrific acts, the camera scours their weather-beaten faces.

"Enemies of the People" is extraordinary on several fronts. Sambath's father and brother were slain by Khmer Rouge militants, and his mother died in childbirth after her forced marriage to a militiaman. Yet as Sambath gently coaxes peasants to confess to atrocities, there is not a shred of bitterness in his questioning. At times, Sambath suggests a one-man Cambodian Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Instead of affixing blame, he seeks the healing power of confession.

"Enemies of the People" is another disquieting testament to the fact that ordinary individuals under extreme pressure will carry out the most monstrous crimes. If they hadn't followed the orders of superiors, they say, they themselves would have been killed. One farmer, a Buddhist who believes in reincarnation, expresses his tormented certainty that it will be many lifetimes before he returns in human form.

The film's journalistic coup is Sambath's persuasion of Nuon Chea, the chief ideologue of Pol Pot (the Cambodian Communist leader who died in 1998), to explain what happened. Chea, also known as Brother No. 2, is a proud, gaunt man in his 80s. Sambath visited him regularly for three years before he agreed to tell the truth.

"Enemies of the People" reserves its biggest emotional punch for the end of the film, when Sambath, who has lied to Chea about the fate of his own family, finally tells him about their loss.

As the final interviews with Chea were conducted, he and other high-level Khmer Rouge officials were waiting to be arrested for war crimes and genocide by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, a United Nations-backed tribunal. Kaing Guek Eav, commonly known as Duch, the head of the Khmer Rouge's Tuol Sleng prison, was sentenced to 35 years in prison. Chea will be the tribunal's second case.

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Ministries told to end trespass case quickly

The Foreign Affairs and Defence ministries have been told to cooperate fully with Phnom Penh authorities to seek an early end to the case of the seven Thais charged with illegal entry into Cambodia.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said yesterday Thailand would not interfere with Phnom Penh's handling of the issue but said "we can talk" to find a joint solution that appealed to both sides.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has set Feb 1 to rule on the fate of the Thais after the Appeal Court decided on Tuesday to grant bail to four of the Thais held in Prey Sar prison.

That means all of the seven arrested except Veera Somkwamkid, an activist on the Thai-Cambodian border issue, have been released on bail. They have been told by the court not to leave Cambodia until a final verdict is rendered.

The seven were accused of trespassing on Cambodian territory when they were arrested on Dec 29.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said yesterday he was "a bit disappointed" by the Cambodian court's decision to set Feb 1 to hand down its ruling. He said this was too long.

Mr Suthep said he did not intend to criticise the court but he hoped Cambodia would reconsider the date to conclude the legal process sooner.

The Appeal Court decided on Tuesday to deny bail to Mr Veera, who faces an additional charge of espionage, because it was afraid he would cause problems in Cambodia if released.

Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, secretary to the Thai foreign minister, said a Cambodian lawyer asked the Supreme Court yesterday to grant Mr Veera bail.

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