Drug Efforts Mixed, Says US

Cambodia appears to have beefed up anti-drug activities in recent months, but efforts are still plagued by politics and corruption at high levels, the US State Department says.

A US government report issued last week gave Cambodia credit for some recent arrests of military and police personnel involved in illegal activities, “suggesting an effort at rooting out at least some drug corruption.”

But the report added: “The continuing instability has politicized the counter-narcotics effort…. Moreover, little has been done by the Royal Government of Cambodia to assuage international concerns about allegations of high-level government corruption, leaving Cambodia’s commitment to counter-narcotics efforts in doubt at this time.”

The statement was issued as part of an annual certification process by which the US measures the performance of about 30 countries involved in international drug trafficking.

Cambodia is deemed a transit point for heroin, and a source for marijuana.

Countries “decertified,” or seen as not cooperating with US anti-narcotics efforts, face possible economic penalties.

Cambodia was neither fully certified nor decertified, but instead given a less-than-full certification, according to a US Embassy spokeswoman here.

The US already had suspended a $325,000 counter-narcotics aid package when all non-humanitarian assistance was cut following July’s factional fighting.

An Interpol official warned in late February that unless that aid is restored, Cambodia will face difficulties controlling organized crime before the elections.

But according to the US State Department statement, free and fair elections “will be vital” in determining counter-narcotics assistance to Cambodia in the future.

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