Working in close partnership with the Cambodian Ministry of Environment, FFI recently helped identify, raid and close down two illegal sassafras oil factories in the Cardamom Mountains of Cambodia. The factories were distilling ‘sassafras oil’; produced by boiling the roots and trunk of the exceptionally rare Mreah Prew Phnom trees. The oil could then be exported to neighbouring countries, and although used in the production of cosmetics, can also be used in the process of producing ecstasy. The distillation process not only threatens Mreah Prew Phnom trees, but causes enormous damage to the surrounding forest ecosystem.
Join the rangers as they venture deep into the rainforest to locate and raid sassafras oil factories in this radio documentary from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation:
The raids came at the end of an investigation by FFI and the Ministry of Environment, which uncovered several new sassafras factories in Phnom Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary. The investigation culminated in a joint operation with the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and resulted in the destruction of the two factories and two arrests.
Last year FFI helped confiscate 33 tonnes of sassafras oil, which was later destroyed at a public ceremony organised by the Cambodian Government and the Australian Federal Police (AFP). The AFP claimed that the oil could have produced 245 million ecstasy tablets with a street value of $US7billion.
FFI Field Coordinator at Phnom Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary, Tim Wood, said: “The re-emergence of the sassafras factories in the sanctuary is of enormous concern. The factories have a very destructive impact on the fragile habitats and ecosystems in the sanctuary.”
The Australian Federal Police National Manager of Border & International, Assistant Commissioner Tim Morris, said it is important that authorities tackle the production of this illicit drug precursor chemical at its source to reduce the likelihood it will find its way into the international drugs trade.
“Not only is the production of sassafras oil devastating to the environment, but is also potentially devastating to society. The AFP commends the efforts of the Cambodian Authorities and Fauna & Flora International in seeking to stop this illegal practice.”