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Cablegate: Cambodians Discuss Precursor Chemical Controls

VZCZCXRO9769
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHPF #0326/01 1021055
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 111055Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9506
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PHNOM PENH 000326

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR INL--BOULDIN
BANGKOK FOR DEA--CHAGNON AND ESCH, AND NAS--DARU
VIENTIANE FOR NAS--HEINZER
HANOI FOR NAS AND DEA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SNAR SENV CB
SUBJECT: CAMBODIANS DISCUSS PRECURSOR CHEMICAL CONTROLS

REF: 06 PHNOM PENH 2138

1. (U) Summary: Cambodian government officials from a variety of
ministries and local and provincial governments recently met to
discuss new procedures in tackling precursor chemical production and
trafficking in Cambodia. Cambodia is a significant supplier of
safrole oil, used in the production of ecstasy. End Summary.

2. (U) During a recent two-day conference organized by the National
Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD) and the UN Office on Drugs and
Crime (UNODC), 75 participants from municipal and provincial courts,
police, local authorities, and the Ministries of Health and
Agriculture discussed Cambodian efforts to prevent the trafficking
of safrole oil. (Note: Safrole oil is a key ingredient in the
production of the MDMA, also known as "ecstasy". It is also
traditionally used in Cambodia in massage for sore and injured
muscles, and as an ingredient in perfume. End Note.) The
production, export, and trade of safrole oil are banned in Cambodia
except for medical purposes. A July 2007 regulation issued by the
Ministry of Health increased the penalties for trafficking or
producing safrole oil. Individuals convicted of the possession,
production, or trafficking of safrole oil for non-medicinal purposes
now face jail time of two to five years as well as fines.

Cambodia a Significant Regional Precursor Supplier
--------------------------------------------- -----

3. (SBU) Cambodia is a significant producer of safrole oil, which
is extracted from the roots and stump of the endangered dysoxylum
loreiri tree, known locally as mreah prov. According to a Forestry
Administration official, these slow-growing trees--which are mostly
found in the provinces of Pursat, Battambang and Koh Kong--are under
serious threat due to safrole oil production. (See reftel for
discussion of precursor production and environmental impact.) UNODC
estimates that Cambodia produces about 250 tons of safrole oil per
year, China 800 tons, Indonesia 17-34 tons and Myanmar 250-500 tons.
Lour Ramin, NACD Secretary General, said that Vietnam has reported
seizing many hundreds of tons of safrole oil being smuggled from
Cambodia into Vietnam in recent years, while Thailand reported that
it seized 50 tons of safrole oil smuggled from Cambodia in October
2007. According to Ramin, the production and sale of safrole oil is
legal in Vietnam, but Vietnamese authorities have become stricter
about checking import and export licenses.

4. (SBU) Wong Hoy Yuen, Bangkok-based UNODC precursor project
coordinator, summarized the findings of a regional meeting on
cross-border precursor trade that was held in Ho Chi Minh City in
September 2007. According to Yuen, at that meeting, government
officials from Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand urged greater
regional cooperation on legal and illegal trade in safrole oil and
strengthened law enforcement efforts. Lour Ramin added that
Cambodia is now working with Vietnam and Thailand to crack down on
the trafficking of safrole oil, but did not highlight specific
examples. Yuen also relayed that participants at the September 2007
conference warned that as one country sharpens its enforcement
techniques, other countries are likely to see increased trafficking.
They specifically predicted that the Cambodia-Lao border may see
increased trafficking as Thailand has now stepped up its
interdiction efforts.

Officials Propose New Precursor Control Procedures
--------------------------------------------- -----

5. (SBU) During the conference, participants discussed and
clarified procedures to be taken in preventing, interdicting, and
prosecuting safrole oil production. The officials reviewed and
suggested changes to a draft procedural order on precursor
chemicals, which the Ministry of Interior expects to finalize and
officially issue in April or May 2008. In the past, the Forestry
Administration had sole authority for taking action against safrole
producers and traffickers. Conference participants recommended
extending this authority to national police officers as well. The
NACD laboratory will be responsible for analyzing the seized
substances in order to provide scientific evidence for court cases.
Seized substances can be held by any competent authority during the
investigation and prosecution phase, though all authorities should
report such a seizure to the NACD. Once a final judgment is made,
the Ministry of Health will be responsible for holding and disposing
of safrole oil, although the NACD will assume this responsibility
until the Ministry of Health can obtain a suitable storage facility.
Authorities at all levels will help to inform communities about the
dangers of safrole oil.

6. (SBU) Comment: While corruption, poor human capacity, and low
funding levels remain obstacles to effective drug control, efforts
at coordination like this conference highlight Cambodia's genuine
efforts to tackle its multi-faceted narcotics problem. Large recent

PHNOM PENH 00000326 002 OF 002


busts--including the seizure of 50 tons of safrole oil at a Thai
port in October 2007 and an as-yet-unpublicized March 30, 2008
seizure of nearly 20 tons of safrole oil in Pursat province,
Cambodia--indicate that Cambodia has no time to lose in addressing
this issue. End Comment.

MUSSOMELI

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