The former head of the anti-drug trafficking bureau in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, has been charged for possessing 100-thousand US dollars worth of methamphetamine. Touch Muysor has been suspended after a joint investigation by local authorities and America's Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Presenter: David Boyle Speakers: Kea Chhay, defence lawyer; Son Chhay, Opposition Sam Rainsy MP; Dr Anand Chaudhuri, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
BOYLE: Touch Muysor once held one of the highest positions in the Cambodia police force... Now he's facing drug and corruption charges. $US100,000 worth of methamphetamines was found in Touch Muysor's office. He's the second senior police officer this month to be charged with drug related offences. His lawyer, Kea Chhay, says his client was just doing his job.
KEA CHHAY: "I think he keeps the drugs in his office so I think he was working at his judicial office - it's part of his work".
BOYLE: Kea Chhay refused to br drawn further on the case but said Touch Muysor denied any wrong doing. The charges are a result of an extensive investigation by the FBI and local law enforcement. It will be alleged Touch Muysor received bribes from local drug dealers. Opposition Sam Rainsy MP Son Chhay says corruption problems are entrenched in local authorities and he's welcomed American involvement in investigations.
SON CHHAY: "It is a really complicated kind of business to deal with in Cambodia due to corruption, due to the kind of gang or group of business involved in drug in this country who have linked themselves to the very high ranking officials in government. It would not be easy for even a good official who works in combating drugs to be able to do anything. Thanks to the FBI and others who have been working with the department authority, combating drugs authority, who have been pushing that the government must do something. "
BOYLE: The National Authority For Combating Drugs is the key instrument Cambodia's government uses to prevent drug trafficking. Radio Australia was unable to contact the Cambodian government, but the head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Dr Anand Chaudhuri, says the arrest of Touch Muysor is evidence that Cambodia is now taking drug prevention very seriously.
CHAUDHURI: "This is evidence of the police capacity of enforcing drug prevention - they're not even leaving their own kind. You see it's a very good example of the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister taking an active interest, not today, but over a long period of time."
BOYLE: Dr Chaudhuri has heaped praise on the Cambodian Government's adoption of radical new strategies in tackling drugs, which he says are unique within mainland South East Asia. He says foreign partners like the Australian Federal Police have been instrumental in helping the government improve their drug policy.
CHAUDHURI:"There's no reason to leave out the importance Australia has placed in the Asia Pacific region as a whole on this matter and the role of Australia in supporting government to look at this problem. It's a completely new direction. Now, they're switching gears and going in for a three year action plan in which they are considering drug users as victims. Now this is a very, very important milestone in Cambodia. Cambodia is probably one of the only countries with no harm reduction policy, but still having needle syringe exchange programs going on in their capital city. They want to observe the results and they are very happy with the Australian Narcotics Control Department - the ANCD's report on needle exchange programs. They, the royal government of Cambodia, had a five year action plan which is ending this year and that action plan was targeting the supply of drugs, and they've done an efficient job on that."