Cambodian police pull off big drugs bust of ketamine dealers

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PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) —

Cambodian police on Tuesday said that they killed one man accused of trafficking and have seized over two tons of the drug ketamine in a major anti-drug operation in the past few days.

Gen. Mok Chito, deputy chief of Cambodia's National Police, told reporters that 13 individuals accused of either drug trafficking or being involved in its manufacture were also arrested.

Ketamine has legitimate medical uses, especially as an anesthetic for animals, but is also abused as a recreational drug. Cambodia and many other countries tightly regulate its production and sale.

Officers on Sunday found about 1.5 tons of ketamine powder stuffed into rice sacks when they stopped a car on the road to the port of Sihanoukville, the deputy chief said.

Mok Chito alleged the drugs were headed for Taiwan. At least three of the people arrested were from Taiwan and helped to run the drug operation, he added.

The general said police on Tuesday found another 700 kilograms (1,540 pounds) of ketamine when they raided the factory believed to be behind the drug operation, in Kampong Speu province, west of the capital Phnom Penh.

During the raid, police made the arrests but shot to death one accused smuggler when he opened fire, the general said.

He said the operation counted as among the largest busts in Cambodia’s anti-drugs crackdown.

Both Cambodian and Chinese police had been monitoring the drug operation for a few months, but had waited until the drugs were being moved out before acting against the smugglers, Mok Chito said.

In 2020, Cambodian authorities say that they seized and destroyed over 8 tons of all types of banned drugs.