Cablegate: Cambodia Incsr Report Part I

DE RUEHPF #1376/01 3110127
P 070127Z NOV 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: STATE 136782

1. The following is post's submission for the 2008 International
Narcotics Control Strategy Report Part 1.

2. Begin text:


I. Summary

With the recent discovery of a major methamphetamine laboratory,
Cambodia now has a confirmed role in drug production, consumption,
and trafficking. In recent years, crackdowns on drug trafficking in
Thailand and China have pushed traffickers to use other routes,
including through Cambodia by land, river, sea, and air. Drug use,
particularly of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS), cuts across
socio-economic lines. Effective law enforcement responses to the
methamphetamine lab, a highly successful lab clean up effort,
significant increases to the budget of the National Authority for
Combating Drugs (NACD), and stiffening penalties for drug use and
trafficking are all steps in the right direction. However,
continuing concerns about corruption, lack of capacity, and low
counternarcotics funding levels--even with the new budget
increase--hamper government efforts. The NACD and the Anti-Drug
Police cooperate closely with the U.S. Drug Enforcement
Administration (DEA), regional counterparts, and the United Nations
Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Cambodia is a party to the 1988
UN Drug Convention.

II. Status of Country

The April 2007 discovery of a major methamphetamine production lab
in Cambodia confirmed suspicions that in recent years the country's
narcotics problem has grown from transit and consumption to include
production as well. Many experts believe that additional
clandestine labs are operating in the country. Mobile groups
harvest dysoxylum loureiri trees in environmentally protected areas
in the Cardamom Mountains and extract safrole oil. The harvest,
sale, and export of safrole oil--which can be used as a precursor
for ecstasy production as well as for other purposes, such as
perfume or massage oil--is illegal in Cambodia. In October 2007,
Thai authorities intercepted a 50 ton shipment of safrole oil which
had originated in Cambodia and was reportedly destined for the U.S.
and China.

ATS and heroin enter Cambodia primarily through the northern
provinces of Stung Treng, Preah Vihear, and Ratanakiri, areas
bordering Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. Small shipments of heroin
and ATS enter and exit Cambodia overland. Larger shipments of
heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana are thought to exit Cambodia
concealed in shipping containers, speedboats and ocean-going
vessels. Drugs, including cocaine and heroin, are also smuggled on
commercial flights concealed in small briefcases, shoes, and on/in
the bodies of individual travelers. Some cannabis cultivation
continues despite a government eradication campaign.

ATS is the most prevalent narcotic in Cambodia, accounting for
nearly 80% of drug use according to the NACD. Both ATS tablets,
known locally as yama, and crystal methamphetamine are widely
available. Heroin use is a significant problem among a relatively
small number of users, three-quarters of whom are in Phnom Penh
according to NACD statistics. Cocaine, ketamine, and opium are also
available in Cambodia. Glue sniffing is also a large problem,
particularly among street children.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 2007

Policy Initiatives. Cambodian narcotics policy and law enforcement
agencies suffer from limited resources, lack of training, and poor
coordination. Under new leadership and with a 55% budget increase in
2007, the NACD has made strides in becoming a more effective
organization. A UNODC project slated to run from 2008-2010 aims to
build capacity at the NACD through structural and functional reform,
managerial and technical capacity building, and a stronger national
drug control network.

The NACD is implementing Cambodia's first 5-year national plan on
narcotics control (2006-2010), which focuses on demand reduction,
supply reduction, drug law enforcement, and expansion of
international cooperation.
Over the past few years the Cambodian government has worked to
strengthen previously weak legal penalties for drug-related
offenses. A new drug law, drafted with help from the Anti-Drug
Police and passed in 2005, provides for a maximum penalty of $25,000
(100,000,000 riel) fine and life imprisonment for drug traffickers,

PHNOM PENH 00001376 002 OF 005

and allows proceeds from the sale of seized assets to be used
towards law enforcement and drug awareness and prevention efforts.
However, some observers have noted that the law is too complex for
the relatively weak Cambodian judiciary to use effectively. In July
2007, the Ministry of Health issued a prakas increasing penalties
for safrole oil production and distribution to two to five years in
jail plus fines.

Law Enforcement Efforts. In general, drug-related arrests and
seizures have declined in 2007, although big cases such as the April
superlab raid and the August bust of a tabletting facility by
military police show some credible law enforcement action.
According to NACD reports, 229 people were arrested for various
drug-related offenses in the first nine months of 2007, compared to
439 in the first nine months of 2006. Similarly, total seizures of
methamphetamine pills declined 13% and heroin seized declined 25%.
Coming after several years of increasing arrests and seizures, it is
difficult to determine if lower levels in this time frame are part
of a new trend in trafficking or law enforcement capability, or
merely a statistical variation.

On April 1, 2007, police raided a methamphetamine lab in Kampong
Speu province, arresting 18 suspects including 14 Cambodians, three
Chinese and one Thai national, and seizing nearly six tons of
drug-making chemicals. Two additional Cambodian suspects were later
arrested. The laboratory was capable only of the first stage of
methamphetamine manufacture, producing the intermediate product
chloroephedrine. This lab, the first uncovered in Cambodia, was
among the largest discovered in Southeast Asia to date.

Corruption. The Cambodian government does not, as a matter of
government policy, encourage or facilitate illicit production or
distribution of drugs or controlled substances, or launder proceeds
from their transactions. Nonetheless, corruption remains pervasive
in Cambodia, making Cambodia highly vulnerable to penetration by
drug traffickers and foreign crime syndicates. Senior Cambodian
government officials assert that they want to combat trafficking and
production; however, corruption, low salaries for civil servants,
and an acute shortage of trained personnel severely limit sustained
advances in effective law enforcement. The judicial system is weak,
and there have been numerous cases of defendants in important
criminal cases having charges against them dropped after paying
relatively small fines, circumstances which raise questions about

In July 2006, Heng Pov, the former chief of the Anti-Drug Police,
fled Cambodia and alleged that high-ranking government officials and
well-connected businessmen were involved in drug trafficking but
were not prosecuted due to government pressure. In August 2007, Oum
Chhay, a tycoon and political advisor who was charged with
involvement in the Kampong Speu superlab, died in police custody.
The police maintain that he committed suicide by jumping out a
window. Some observers allege that he was murdered, noting with
suspicion that he was being supervised by three guards at the time
of his death, died due to a fall from a first-story window, and
landed on his back. It is difficult to assess the credibility of
these claims.

At the Consultative Group (CG) meeting in December 2004, a group of
donor countries jointly proposed a new benchmark for Cambodian
government reform: forwarding an anticorruption law, which meets
international best practices, to the National Assembly. The
government agreed to meet this benchmark by the next CG meeting,
which was held in March 2006. Unfortunately, the government failed
to meet this deadline and, as of October 2007, had still not
completed the law. A government committee was in the process of
reviewing possible models in Singapore and Hong Kong. At each
quarterly meeting of the Government-Donor Coordinating Committee,
the international community has highlighted the government's still
un-met commitment and outlined the international best practices to
be included in the Cambodian draft corruption law. Cambodia signed
the UN Convention against Corruption in September 2007 and the
convention is pending ratification by the National Assembly.

Agreements and Treaties. Cambodia is a party to the 1988 UN Drug
Convention, the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and
the 1961 UN Single Convention. The National Assembly ratified the
1972 UN Protocol amending the 1961 Single Convention in September
2007 and the King signed it into law the following month. Cambodia
is a party to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized
Crime and its protocols against migrant smuggling and illegal
manufacturing and trafficking in firearms.

Cultivation/Production. Cannabis-related arrests, eradication and
seizures have declined dramatically over the past several years. In
2007, there was an up tick in eradication, with 1,075 square meters

PHNOM PENH 00001376 003 OF 005

of cannabis plantations destroyed in the first nine months, compared
to 144 square meters destroyed during the full year 2006. Four
people were arrested for cannabis cultivation and/or trafficking
between January and September 2007.

Drug Flow/Transit. Crackdowns on drug trafficking in Thailand and
China have pushed traffickers to use other routes, including routes
through Cambodia. Heroin and ATS enter Cambodia by both primary and
secondary roads and rivers across the northern border, transit
through Cambodia via road or river networks, and enter Thailand and
Vietnam. Effective law enforcement of the border region with Laos
on the Mekong River, which is permeated with islands, is nearly
impossible due to lack of boats and fuel among law enforcement
forces. At the same time, recent improvement in National Road 7 and
other roads is increasing the ease with which traffickers can use
Cambodia's rapidly developing road network--a trend likely to
continue as further road and bridge projects are implemented.
Heroin, cannabis, and ATS are believed to exit Cambodia via
locations along the Gulf--including the deep-water port of
Sihanoukville--as well as the river port of Phnom Penh.

Airports in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap suffer from lax customs and
immigration controls. An October 2006 circular from the Prime
Minister called for law enforcement agencies to carry out security
checks, including x-ray and other screening, at airports. However,
according to the NACD, these checks are still conducted by contract
employees of the airport concessionaire because the government lacks
the funding to buy the required equipment. Some illegal narcotics
transit these airports en route to foreign destinations. On February
15, 2007, a Taiwanese national was arrested at Phnom Penh
International Airport with five condoms containing 265 grams of
heroin strapped to his lower abdomen. On October 14, 2007, another
Taiwanese national was arrested at Phnom Penh International Airport
with 800 grams of heroin in his pockets.

Domestic Programs (Demand Reduction). With the assistance of USAID,
UNODC, UNICEF, WHO, the Japanese International Cooperation Agency
(JICA) and NGOs, the NACD is attempting to boost awareness about
drug abuse among Cambodians--especially Cambodian youth--through the
use of pamphlets, posters, and public service announcements. A UNODC
treatment and rehabilitation project, funded by Japan, will work to
increase the capacity of health and human services to deal
effectively with drug treatment issues, beginning by conducting an
in-depth baseline study of drug use in 2008. Several local NGOs,
including Mith Samlanh and Korsang, have taken active roles in
helping to rehabilitate drug users.

The Cambodian government recently launched a major initiative to
establish additional drug treatment facilities. A 2006 circular
from the Prime Minister directed each province to establish
residential drug treatment centers. As of October 2007, there were
ten government-run treatment centers, with additional centers under
construction. A joint NACD/Ministry of Health assessment of these
centers, conducted during January and February 2007, documented
serious shortcomings. The centers could not conduct proper physical
and psychological intake assessments, lacked trained medical staff,
did not gain consent from patients over the age of 18, and failed to
provide follow-up services or refer patients to organizations that
can provide those services. While proven drug rehabilitation
techniques include individual and group counseling, cognitive
behavioral therapy, relapse prevention, and vocational training, the
government facilities rely on confinement, military-style drills,
exercise, and discipline to rehabilitate their patients. In
addition to the government-run centers, Mith Samlanh operates a
small residential rehabilitation program which offers
medically-supervised detoxification, individual and group
counseling, and referral into Mith Samlanh's extensive network of
vocational training and other services.

During the first nine months of 2007, 727 drug users and addicts
were admitted to the government-run centers and 89 had received such
drug detoxification and rehabilitation services through Mith
Samlanh. While estimates of the number of drug users in Cambodia
vary widely--from the official 2007 NACD figure of 5,773 to a 2004
UNAIDS estimate of 40,000 with a 5% annual growth rate--it is clear
that the need for drug treatment services far outstrips the
available supply.

Cambodia is also implementing harm reduction programs for the first
time. In 2004, the NACD granted permission to the NGO Mith Samlanh
to begin a needle exchange program in Phnom Penh. Korsang now also
runs a needle exchange program as well. NACD and the World Health
Organization are working to develop a pilot methadone maintenance
program, which will likely be implemented at the Khmer-Soviet
Friendship Hospital in partnership with Korsang, starting in late

PHNOM PENH 00001376 004 OF 005

IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs

Policy Initiatives. For the first time in over three decades, there
is relative political stability in Cambodia. However, Cambodia is
plagued by many of the institutional weaknesses common to the
world's most vulnerable developing countries. The challenges for
Cambodia include: nurturing the growth of democratic institutions
and the protection of human rights; providing humanitarian
assistance and promoting sound economic growth policies to alleviate
the debilitating poverty that engenders corruption; and building
human and institutional capacity in law enforcement sectors to
enable the government to deal more effectively with narcotics
traffickers. One unique challenge is the loss of many of Cambodia's
best trained professionals in the Khmer Rouge period (1975-1979), as
well as during the subsequent Vietnamese occupation. Performance in
the area of law enforcement and administration of justice must be
viewed in the context of Cambodia's profound human capacity
limitations. Even with the active support of the international
community, there will be continuing gaps in performance for the
foreseeable future.

Bilateral Cooperation. The recent lifting of U.S. congressional
restrictions on direct assistance to the Cambodian government has
given the U.S. government increased flexibility in partnering with
Cambodia in battling narcotics. The Defense Department's Joint
Interagency Task Force-West (JIATF-West) conducted two training
missions in Cambodia in 2007 and renovated a military classroom and
barracks in Sisophon. In February and March, U.S. Army personnel
led training in basic land navigation, patrolling, reconnaissance,
and respecting human rights in the line of duty in Battambang. In
June 2007, U.S. Navy personnel instructed Cambodian military
personnel in Phnom Penh in small boat maintenance.

Cambodia regularly hosts visits from Bangkok-based DEA personnel,
and Cambodian authorities cooperate actively with DEA, including in
the areas of joint operations and operational intelligence sharing.

In three 2-week sessions during 2007, trainers from the U.S.-based
drug treatment organization Daytop International provided training
in residential drug treatment techniques to government officials,
NGO workers, monks, military and police officials. This training,
funded by the State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics
and Law Enforcement (INL), was the first comprehensive training on
residential drug treatment ever held in the country.

The U.S. and Cambodia worked closely together in the aftermath of
the discovery of the Kampong Speu methamphetamine lab.
Bangkok-based DEA agents traveled to the site immediately after the
discovery to assist in the investigation, and a team of DEA forensic
chemists and precursors specialists traveled from the U.S. and other
countries to analyze the laboratory. Working through the UNODC, INL
provided $140,000 for the clean up effort, the largest monetary
contribution by any country.

Drug use among populations targeted for HIV prevention is a growing
concern as it inhibits sexual risk perception and needle sharing is
the most efficient means of transmitting HIV. USAID HIV/AIDS
programs work with populations at high risk of contracting HIV,
including sex workers and their clients, men who have sex with men,
and drug users. These groups are not mutually exclusive as many sex
workers also use and inject drugs. Prevention programs targeting
high risk populations aim to reduce illicit drug use and risky
sexual practices.

The Road Ahead. Cambodia is making progress toward more effective
law enforcement against narcotics trafficking; however, its capacity
to implement a satisfactory, systematic approach to counternarcotics
operations remains low. Instruction for mid-level Cambodian law
enforcement officers at the International Law Enforcement Academy in
Bangkok (ILEA) and for military, police, and immigration officers by
JIATF-West has partially addressed Cambodia's dire training needs.
However, after training, these officers return to an environment of
scarce resources and pervasive corruption.

Now that congressional restrictions on direct assistance to the
Cambodian government have been lifted, the U.S. and Cambodia are
working together to transfer some excess soldier and unit equipment
from the U.S. (such as uniforms, boots, first aid pouches,
compasses, cots, and tents) for use by Cambodian Army border
battalions. Such equipment will help increase the Cambodian
military's ability to conduct patrols along the borders. The
JIATF-West training events in FY08 will consist of one event at the
newly renovated Sisophon site and another event in Preah Vihear.
JIATF-West will continue their training infrastructure renovation

PHNOM PENH 00001376 005 OF 005

project, which will both facilitate future JIATF-West training and
also build the capacity of Cambodian law enforcement and military
authorities. INL funding for FY08 will be used to support and
strengthen Cambodia's narcotics interdiction capabilities. The U.S.
is encouraged that Cambodia has recently signed the UN Convention
against Corruption and will continue to press the government to
adopt anti-corruption legislation.

© Scoop Media

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