Sunday, July 10, 2016
Cambodia - Drug Addicts Not Criminals, Says NGO
Under the theme of “Support! Don’t Punish” in celebration of International Day Against Drugs on Sunday, a coalition of NGOs yesterday urged a more rehabilitative approach to drug users rather than seeing them as criminals.
Sok Chamroeun, the executive director of public health NGO Khana, said addicts use drugs for a wide range of societal and physiological circumstances and it was wrong to brand them as criminals.
“If they are in this situation, they themselves are the victims. The message from Samdech Decho also said that the drug abusers are the victims and we want the message heard to all law enforcement including the police and authorities to stop them from thinking they are criminals,” he said.
“We cannot put the blame on anyone because the situation of living with drugs is related to many aspects. It can be because of themselves, time, environment, society and family.”
Chhum Vannarith, an undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Health, also noted the circumstances that can lead people to drug abuse and said the ministry plans to expand its funding to provide community support, but needed to wait for the approval of international donor Global Fund.
“The risks can be problems with their mental condition, physical condition because of a lack of nutrition, not to mention communicable diseases like Aids or hepatitis because of the use of needles,” he said.
“Even though there are legal conflicts, we have support from the leadership of government and the ministry is trying to provide services at the community level, and for the drug injection abuser the Soviet Hospital is planning to expand its services at Meanchey Hospital when there is approval for funds from Global Fund.”
Drug users face charges and imprisonment if caught by police. Their drug habits often become worse when sent to prison where drug dealing and use has become rampant.
Dr. Vannarith urged family members to bring addicts to facilities that offer treatment, before they are caught by police.
Meas Virith, the secretary general of the secretariat of the National Authority on Combating Drugs, said Cambodia is highly susceptible to the woes of drug-related problems due to its proximity to the Golden Triangle.
“Because Cambodia is close to the golden triangle, it is used as a hotbed for drug transport to third countries,” he said.
He acknowledged that government attempts to combat drug use has failed to deliver any notable results, with drug trafficking and usage becoming more prevalent than ever.
“I would like to say the drug crackdown is not a failure, but not a success because of the complicated nature of the drug operation that always evade the police tactics,” he said.