A South African man caught at Phnom Penh International Airport with a stomach full of cocaine capsules tried to move the drugs through Cambodia because police here are poor at detecting drug mules, an anti-drug department official admitted on Monday.
Jacobus Dawie Botha, who was detained on Friday morning, had left Brazil with the drugs and boarded transit flights in Dubai and then Bangkok, officials said. He was stopped after Cambodian officials received a tip from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
An official pours gasoline onto a pyre of 1.5 tons of confiscated drugs in June at a ceremony in Phnom Penh to mark World Drug Day. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)Mr. Botha, 30, had passed more than 40 thumb-sized pellets on Monday and officials were waiting for him “to get all the drugs out,” In Song, an officer for the Interior Ministry’s anti-drug department, said on Monday.
He said the drugs were cocaine, though officials still planned to do additional testing, he said.
Even though the cocaine was likely bound for Thailand, drug mules prefer not to enter that country through the airport because of its sophisticated detection equipment, instead choosing to transfer to Phnom Penh and then take the drugs overland, Mr. Song said.
“The airport in Thailand is more strict and they have enough materials and tools to thoroughly check. He cannot enter,” he said. “For us, it is still limited, so he can enter through our terminal as we don’t have enough materials and tools.”
Sary Botsatya, a bureau chief at the Interior Ministry’s anti-drug police department, said he also believed the drugs were to be smuggled out of the country, as “there is no cocaine market in Cambodia,” adding that Mr. Botha was not cooperating with authorities.
“He would not cooperate with us because his answers seemed to be dishonest,” he said.
According to the U.S. State Department’s 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, South American-sourced cocaine is “smuggled into the country for onward shipment to countries in the Asia-Pacific region, usually under the control of African drug trafficking syndicates operating in Phnom Penh.”
soumy@cambodiadaily.com
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