INTA Bulletin

February 1, 2018 Vol. 73 No. 2 Back to Bulletin Main Page

Sophana Meach, Cambodian Counter Counterfeit Committee: Exposing Fakes, Saving Lives

As President of the Cambodian Counter Counterfeit Committee (CCCC), Lieutenant General Sophana Meach is charged with protecting the public from the many dangers of counterfeit goods. Established in 2015 by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior, H.E. Sar Kheng, with support from the government of France, the CCCC represents the Cambodian government’s recognition that counterfeiting is a serious health and safety risk that requires a dedicated agency to address.

“Our origins lie in the realization by the Cambodian government that the relevant ministries and other state institutions may not be ideally structured and focused to combat counterfeit trade, especially since the rampant trade and manufacture of counterfeit drugs has begun to pose a serious threat to public health and safety,” says Mr. Meach. By protecting the public from “dangerous, unsafe, unhealthy, and substandard goods, particularly in the categories of medicines, cosmetics, and food/beverage items, we are protecting the interests and investments of honest merchants, brand owners, and license holders who provide employment, technology, education, progress and revenue,” he adds.

Mr. Meach spoke in more detail with the INTA Bulletin about some of the CCCC’s recent accomplishments and how INTA can help the committee to achieve its goal of saving lives.

What have been some key accomplishments of the CCCC since its establishment?
The CCCC has succeeded in serving notice to counterfeiters and illegal importers of the seriousness of their crimes and awakening the public to the dangers and risks to their health by using unlicensed medicines or cosmetic products. Our appeal to the corporate community has produced memorandums of understanding with trade chambers and major companies for common strategies and support of our efforts. We managed to crack down on some large counterfeit operations and successfully prosecuted the perpetrators.

You recently destroyed 81 tons of fake cosmetic products, the most the country has ever disposed of. How did you do it, and are there similar future operations in motion in other sectors?
Those goods were accumulated from earlier raids and seizures. Larger quantities are earmarked for destruction but must await the official and final verdict of the courts. Those public displays of destroying contraband serve to show that the government is serious about disposing of harmful goods and about cutting into illegal businesses. Those raids are the results of a combination of intelligence work, patient investigation, and following complaints of brand owners and the public.

Lieutenant General Sophana Meach
Undersecretary of State
Ministry of Interior, Kingdom of Cambodia

Lieutenant General Sophana Meach is an Undersecretary of State and President of the Cambodia Counter Counterfeit Committee, Ministry of Interior. General Meach served as the Director of the Immigration Department from 2002 to 2003 and the Chief of Staff of the Cambodian National Police from 2003 to 2005. He is the Vice Chairman of the National Counter Terrorism Committee Secretariat. In the area of sport, he serves as President of the Cambodian Motor Sport Federation and the Cambodia Shooting Federation. He is widely connected with the law enforcement and intelligent communities around the world. His areas of specialty are diplomacy, international cooperation, and ASEAN affairs; and transnational crime prevention, including counter-terrorism, counter money laundering, and counter counterfeiting.

What are the major challenges the CCCC is facing, and how are you addressing those?
Our challenges are abundant; foremost are: a lack of resources, building the capabilities of our existing staff and officers, gaining experience, and collecting know-how. We are in desperate need of investigative technologies, data software, and testing equipment. On the public front, we battle against the shadows of corruption and mistrust in state institutions. We have, with the generous assistance of some corporate sponsors, begun public education campaigns, newsletters, and other frontline public relations work. A well-known law firm is sponsoring a presentation video of our activities, and some overseas organizations are offering seminars and workshops. We have managed to draw some talented and experienced individuals into our committee and secretariat to provide focus and structured procedures in order to build competence. Additionally, we lobby our government for proper budget allocation and the private sector to support us with much needed resources, as mentioned above. Interviews such as this one will hopefully generate interest in our work and our plight for tangible support.

How big is the problem of online counterfeiting in Cambodia? Are there projects or partnerships underway to address it?
Through the proliferation of social media and the ever easier set-up and availability of trading platforms, online trade in counterfeit goods has increased dramatically and will pose a major new challenge. As a first measure, we established within the human resources of our secretariat an IT department, or working group. We are, admittedly, hopelessly behind the curve on this topic. One promising development is a cooperation effort with a French company specialized in cybercrime, which should materialize within the next months and which could put us hot on the heels of illegal cyber trade. Our officers need urgent training and the necessary software and equipment to stop this trend before the Internet undermines our efforts on the street.

How can INTA members best help the CCCC?
INTA can help by assisting us in spreading the message, introducing us to sympathetic potential partners or peer organizations, and by sharing expertise and technologies. We of course appreciate and gratefully accept any form of support, but mostly by focused workshops where “hands-on” participation within smaller groups can produce tangible results, rather than large-scale seminar presentations with universal subjects. We need our officers to experience the procedures, work, and surroundings of their counterparts on foreign soil, where different approaches and advanced practices can broaden their minds and build confidence in their own work.

What goals is the CCCC focusing on achieving in the coming years?
We still focus on our priorities in the sectors of public health, beauty care, and food and beverages, but we may soon be persuaded to extend our attention to other areas of public safety, such as electric appliances and toys. We are very determined to fulfill the mission of our charter and to use our invested authority to combat counterfeits and parallel imports with ever greater efficiency. That means intensifying investigative work, expanding public relations efforts, and raising our competence and technical capability by any means possible. Our ultimate goal is to see a dramatic decrease in death or injury from substandard consumer goods and increased prosecution of criminal merchants.

Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of items in the INTA Bulletin, readers are urged to check independently on matters of specific concern or interest.

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