Search

 

Cablegate: Request for Funding for Methamphetamine Superlab

VZCZCXRO1031
OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHPF #0602/01 1201106
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 301106Z APR 07
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8372
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
RUEHUNV/USMISSION UNVIE PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 PHNOM PENH 000602

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, INL/AAE--CHARLES BOULDIN, AND
OES--ANTOINETTE CONDO AND LYNETTE POULTON
VIENNA FOR SCOTT THOMPSON
BANGKOK FOR ESTH--JIM WALLER, NAS--TERRY DARU, AND
DEA--SCOTT SEELEY-HACKER AND JOHN SWAIN
PACOM FOR JIATF-WEST--DAVE KILBOURN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SNAR SENV PREL SOCI KCRM CB
SUBJECT: REQUEST FOR FUNDING FOR METHAMPHETAMINE SUPERLAB
CLEANUP

REF: A. PHNOM PENH 515
B. PHNOM PENH 536

1. (U) This is an action request for INL and OES. Please
see paragraph 10.

Methamphetamine Superlab Discovered in Cambodia
--------------------------------------------- --

2. (SBU) On April 1, the Cambodian Anti-Drug Police (CADP)
raided a a chemical storehouse in Phnom Penh and
amethamphetamine superlab located 80 km south of the city.
The superlab was located on land registered to Chea Chung, a
current or former military colonel, though it is widely
rumored that Chung gave the land to Nhek Bun Chhay, the
leader of FUNCINPEC, the minority party in the ruling
coalition. Approximately 4 tons of chemicals and equipment
capable of completing the first stage in a two-stage
methamphetamine production process were discovered. An
arrest warrant for Chea Chung has been issued, though police
have not yet been able to locate him. The CADP arrested 18
individuals, including one Thai and two Chinese men believed
to be technical experts, 14 male Cambodian laborers, and one
Chinese woman believed to be involved in the production
effort.

3. (SBU) A team of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
forensic chemists and special agents came to the site April 7
and identified approximately 1,560 liters of thionyl
chloride, 140 liters of diethyl ether, and 700 liters of
acetone. They also found containers indicating a total
quantity of 750 liters of chloroform, though some of this had
already been used. They also identified a trace amount of
pseduoephedrine, 52 kg of processed chloroephedrine and an
additional approximately 30 kg of chloroephedrine that had
not yet been finished processing. DEA and United Nations
Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) staff estimated that if the
chemicals found on site were processed into methamphetamines,
they would yield approximately 55 kg of pure methamphetamine,
which could produce roughly 4.8 million methamphetamine
tablets (worth roughly USD 14.4 million in Phnom Penh or USD
33.6 million in Thailand) or 5 million crystal
methamphetamine (ice) dosage units worth roughly USD 8.5-10.3
million in Thailand, according to DEA and UNODC estimates.

Superlab Presents Critical Environmental, Health Risks
--------------------------------------------- ---------

4. (SBU) DEA chemists noted that the chemicals on site are
poorly stored and represent a critical environmental and
health threat to the area. Thionyl chloride reacts with
water, including trace amounts such as humidity in air, to
produce two extremely dangerous and corrosive chemicals,
sulfur dioxide and hydrochloric acid. Diethyl ether, they
noted, is explosive. None of the chemicals at the site are
being stored properly, with chemicals sitting outside in
intense heat and subject to damage from weather or animals.
The DEA team noted that the thionyl chloride has apparently
already begun to leak as it is corroding the boxes in which
it is stored. The team also reported that, in addition to
taking samples from the chemicals on site, they also
collected a water sample from a nearby well. It had an oily
layer on top, they reported, and did not appear to be
potable, indicating likely contamination of groundwater as
well. The site is approximately 1 acre and is located in a
low intensity agricultural area with the nearest population
center about 10 km away.

5. (SBU) Individuals exposed to the chemicals at the site
have already reported adverse reactions. Two of the suspects
were vomiting blood when arrested. A family of five was
hired to tend cattle on the property, and they developed open
sores, swollen faces, and hacking coughs as a result of
chemical exposure. Even after medical care and several weeks
of living in a new location far from the chemicals, one
family member still has facial swelling and a rash.

Proposed Clean Up Plans
-----------------------

6. (SBU) The Cambodian government has formed an
inter-ministerial committee to develop clean-up plans for the

PHNOM PENH 00000602 002 OF 003


site, and UNODC has been designated as the lead international
agency for coordinating clean up efforts. Cambodia has no
prior experience in handling hazardous waste and there are no
companies or other organizations in country who can take on
the task. Relying largely on a list of companies recommended
by ESTH officers in the region, the UNODC is currently
contacting companies that may be able to properly dispose of
the chemicals at the site. However, few companies have so
far expressed interest. UNODC has so far received only one
proposal for site cleanup, from GSM Consultancy in Singapore,
a company with a US-affiliate who is certified by the General
Services Administration to remediate meth labs in the U.S.
UNODC plans to formally issue a request for proposals this
week and hopes that clean up activities can begin within
three weeks.

7. (SBU) GSM's proposal provides a glimpse at one likely
clean up approach. Due to the lack of hazardous waste
landfills in Cambodia, the GSM proposal relies on relatively
simple technical approaches to disposing of remaining
chemicals and contaminated equipment. The preferred option
would be to solidify the remaining chemicals with
vermiculite, sawdust, or soil; drum the chemicals; and
destroy them at a cement kiln south of the site. If this is
not possible, given the extremely limited options for
disposal, other possibilities for disposal include
evaporation and solidification (particularly of chemicals
other than thionyl chloride) or mixing the chemicals with
cement in a transit mixer. Any cement produced could be
crushed and used for a road base or other application. At
all points, the chemicals would be segregated to avoid
reactions. Contaminated equipment, laboratory glassware,
mixing containers, and portions of the structure would be
disposed of by performing limited decontamination using
water, detergent, and brushes, and cutting or breaking up the
equipment.

8. (SBU) To restore the site to agricultural use, soils with
high field-measured volatile organic compound (VOC) levels
could be remediated in situ by aerating the soil and mixing
it with potassium permanganate (a commonly available
supplement to poultry feed) or other locally available
oxidizing agent to enhance oxidation. Due to limited
information currently available about groundwater
contamination, GSM presents several possible scenarios:
aerating the water using a bubbler in ponds and cistern to
oxidize and volatize the organic compounds, pumping water
through a granulated activated carbon filter to remove
contaminants, planting specific species known for removing
chemicals from soil, or constructing an oxidation cell for
groundwater remediation. The ponds and cistern well on the
property could be completely backfilled following the
remediation. All work could be done in compliance with a
site-specific health and safety plan.

9. (SBU) GSM estimates that this approach would likely cost
between USD 75,000 and 100,000, although it is difficult to
get an accurate assessment given the limited information
available. UNODC would like to include a capacity building
component into the project so that, in the future, the
Cambodian government will be more prepared to tackle these
clean ups themselves. This will likely push costs closer to
USD 100,000. The German embassy has indicated to UNODC think
it is likely that they will be able to contribute USD 50,000
to the clean up effort. No other donors have been identified
at this point.

Action Request: USD 50,000 Contribution for Clean Up
--------------------------------------------- --------

10. (SBU) ACTION REQUEST: Post requests that INL and/or OES
consider funding USD 50,000 towards this clean up effort.
Given that the Cambodian Anti-Drug Police are typically
involved in small scale busts while there are persistent
rumors of police and official involvement in drug smuggling,
busting a drug lab connected to a current or former military
colonel with ties to the ruling government coalition is a
bold and laudable move. While their technical skills and
funding are limited, the Cambodian-Anti Drug Police have
cooperated very freely with post and the Bangkok-based DEA
office. Coming on the heels of a successful visit by
national police commissioner Hok Lundy to Washington, Post

PHNOM PENH 00000602 003 OF 003


believes that helping to fund the clean up effort would
reward the excellent police work and political will which led
to this bust, eliminate a very real environmental and health
threat, end the possibility of the chemicals being stolen or
diverted by other would-be drug producers, and thereby
further post's working relationship with Cambodian law
enforcement agencies. This relatively small amount of money
would also have a dramatic impact in tackling a critical
enironmental and health issue at a particularly opportune
moment when post has previously had insufficient staff and
resources to respond adequately to Cambodia's significant
environmental needs. Resulting press coverage from US
participation in such a high-profile clean up effort would
provide a further boost to the US's good reputation in
Cambodia. END ACTION REQUEST.

11. Point of contact for this request is Polecon officer
Jennifer Spande, spandejs@state.gov.
MUSSOMELI

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Cyclone Gita: 70% Of Tonga Population Affected

The full scale of destruction is beginning to emerge from Tonga in the aftermath of the severe tropical cyclone Gita. Around 50,000 people, or almost 70% of the country’s population, have been affected, a third of whom are children. More>>

ALSO:

Gita: Samoas Clean Up After Being Swamped By Cyclone

Apia in the wake of Gita Photo: Rudy Bartley The clean up is continuing in the two Samoas after Tropical Cyclone Gita hit on Saturday morning. More>>

ALSO:


Grand Coalition : Germany's two main political parties set to govern under Angela Merkel.

The liberal-conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) negotiated through the night in a marathon final push to nail down an agreement. More>>


80 Passengers: Kiribati Ferry Disaster

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are working with the Government of Kiribati to support children, families and communities affected by the recent Butiraoi ferry disaster. More>>

ALSO:

Campbell On: the US demonising of Iran

Satan may not exist, but the Evil One has always been a handy tool for priests and politicians alike. Currently, Iran is the latest bogey conjured up by Washington to (a) justify its foreign policy interventions and (b) distract attention from its foreign policy failures. More

ALSO:

 
 
 
 
 
 
  • Pacific.Scoop
  • Cafe Pacific
  • PMC