Sad day for humanity:
$7.6 billion of illegal safrole-rich oil destroyed
Friday, 20 June 2008
One of the world's largest illegal stockpiles of the oil used as a precursor to manufacture ecstasy has gone up in flames in a joint operation between the Australian Federal Police and Cambodian authorities.
AFP members travelled to Pursat in western Cambodia this week to help destroy a stockpile of safrole-rich oil which could have been used to produce 245 million MDMA (ecstasy) tablets with an estimated street value in Australia of $7.6 billion.
The team of four technicians and two forensic chemists from the AFP’s Specialist Response Amphetamine Type Stimulants (SRATS) team began burning the 33-tonne stockpile of oil this week, 170 kilometres west of the capital Phnom Penh.
The AFP members transported specialist equipment from Australia to carry out the operation, including chemical suits, breathing apparatus, decontamination showers, air compressors, generators and gas monitoring and analysis equipment.
The burns of the 1278 oil barrels took several days and were conducted in the early morning and evening because of the sweltering conditions in Cambodia at this time of year.
Cambodian authorities have been working since 2002 to stem the distillation of safrole-rich oil and since that time have succeeded in detecting and dismantling more than 50 clandestine laboratories capable of producing up to 60 litres a day.
The single largest seizure was made in April this year during a three-week operation by the Cambodian National Police, military police, Cambodian prosecutors, forestry and environment officials in an uninhabited area of the western region.
Cambodia’s National Authority for Combating Drugs then approached the AFP to assist with the safe disposal of the oil stockpile.
Cambodia will observe United Nations International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking on Monday, 23 June.
AFP National Manager Border International Tim Morris congratulated the CNP on the oil seizures and said its destruction was a significant blow to the trade of illicit drugs in the region and an excellent example of the AFP working with its international policing partners.
Safrole-rich oil is derived from the roots of two varieties of the Sassafras tree, which is classified as a rare species in Cambodia and only grows in the Cardamom Mountains.
The entire tree is cut down in order to distill the oil from the roots, while the remainder of the timber is used to fire the clan lab furnaces.
Much of the oil ends up in neighbouring Vietnam, China and Thailand, where it is not illegal, for refinement.
"I commend the coordinated effort by Cambodian authorities to seize the oil, break the production chain and reduce the dependency on income from illegal drug manufacture,” Assistant Commissioner Morris said.
“This oil is not only a precursor in ecstasy production, it also has considerable social and ecological ramifications for Cambodia’s people and environment.
“This oil is known to be carcinogenic and mutagenic and the people working in these clan labs are often Cambodia’s poorest farmers,” he added.
The burn was observed today by Cambodian Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Chan Saron, Vice Chairman of the National Authority for Combating Drugs Teng Savong, Secretary General of the National Authority for Combating Drugs Police Lieutenant General Lour Ramin and Governor of Pursat Chhay Saret.
Australia was represented by Chargé D’Affaires to the Australian Embassy in Cambodia Fiona Cochaud, along with senior AFP representatives and members of international policing agencies posted to Cambodia.
AFP Media (Canberra): (02) 6275 7100