Sunday, July 10, 2016

Cambodia - Drug Stockpile Goes up in Smoke

To mark yesterday’s International Day Against Drugs, nearly two tons of methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana was burned at Boeung Trabek High School under the watch of Deputy Prime Minister Ke Kim Yan.

According to a report from the National Authority on Combatting Drugs, which Mr. Kim Yan is president of, the total weight of the drugs burned was 1,909kg, all of which was seized and used in evidence in three large Phnom Penh Municipal Court cases.

“Cambodia is still getting shocking reports on drugs. Even though Cambodia is not a drug-producing country, because of the influence of drug production and trafficking in the world and region and her geography near the Golden Triangle, wicked people have tried to find ways to use the geography for trafficking, transporting, stocking and modifying drugs for export through Cambodia to third countries,” Mr. Kim Yan said in a speech, referring to the Kingdom’s role as a transshipment point in Southeast Asia’s large drug trade. He added that some drugs stayed in Cambodia for domestic use.

The Golden Triangle, an area that overlaps Laos, Myanmar and Thailand, is infamous for producing illegal drugs.

Brushing off criticism of law enforcement agencies for lax action on major drug crimes, Mr. Kim Yan said 54 large cases of cross-border drug-trafficking had been addressed by police last year alone, with hundreds of kilograms of drugs seized from more than 4,000 groups of suspects. 

Although Prime Minister Hun Sen was not present at yesterday’s bonfire, Information Minister Khieu Kanharith spoke on his behalf.

“If drug problems happen in any community, the people who have the ability to deal with them more effectively are the community members and local authorities in charge of that community,” Mr. Kanharith said.

“The outside authority and upper-level institutions have a duty to fight against drugs in the community, but this support is effective to only some extent. So the drug problem in the locality must be dealt with by the local and sub-national authority, which must be in charge as necessary,” he added.

In the past, sub-national police officials have manipulated data to reflect more favorably on their effectiveness in combating drug use and trafficking.

Mok Chito, the Deputy Chief of the National Police Commission, in April lambasted reports his office received from some provinces, slamming them as unclear and obviously manipulated. He blamed the shoddy figures on the provinces’ “limited ability” to handle drug related offenses.

Sou Sochenda, the manager of organizational and institutional development with public health NGO Khana, said drug abuse in Cambodia is still endemic, and while there seems to be support for addressing the issue at the national level, little is being done to support a healthy Cambodia at the grassroots level.

“Now the national government seems to have some commitment to treat and support drug abusers by promoting programs to cure them at state health centers, but when we look at the sub-national level, police or family members still discriminate against drug users and want them to go to correctional centers where abuse is rampant,” Ms. Sochenda said.

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