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Cambodia and its neighbours burn $1 billion worth of drugs

Khuon Narim / Khmer Times Share:
KT/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodia and its regional partners torched nearly $1 billion worth of seized narcotics yesterday, a defiant show of force as police struggle to stem the rising flow of drugs in the region.
The burnings, to mark the UN’s world anti-drugs day, follow another year of record seizures of narcotics from the remote borderlands of Myanmar, Laos, southern China and northern Thailand.
Myanmar in particular remains one of the world’s great drug-producing nations, a dark legacy of decades of civil war in its frontier regions where troops and ethnic rebel forces have vied for control of the lucrative trade.
Armed gangs churn out vast quantities of opium, heroin and cannabis and millions of caffeine-laced methamphetamine pills known as “yaba”, which are then smuggled out across Southeast Asia.
In Cambodia, the affect of its neighbouring countries’ dilemmas did not go unnoticed yesterday when the National Authority for Combatting Drugs held a conference on Koh Pich to tout its recent accomplishments and burn more than 100 kilograms of drugs.
Deputy Prime Minister Ke Kim Yan, chairman of NACD, noted that Cambodia is not a drug-producing country, but is geographically located within the Golden Triangle, making it a hub for drug transportation to other countries.
He said that more than 9,000 suspects have been nabbed, and 126 kilograms of drugs confiscated, during the government’s recent anti-drug campaign.
“Drug use has become a worrisome issue that impacts the security and safety of the public,” he said, addressing about 2,000 civil servants.
“If we cannot resolve the issue of drug use, Cambodia will continue to be a big market for trafficking,” he added.
According to NACD, drug use rose 24 percent from 2015, when there were 16,575 users, to 2016, when there were 20,621 users. Those in rehab also rose, from 7,753 in 2015 to 11,901 in 2016.
Mr Kim Yan said 126.31 kilograms of drugs worth about $4 million, including heroin, methamphetamine and ecstasy, were burned yesterday outside the Koh Pich Convention Centre.
General Meas Vyrith, secretary-general at NACD, said the government’s recent anti-drug campaign has helped deter drug use and trafficking.
“We can make the assessment that the implementation of the anti-drug campaign has had good result,” Mr Vyrith said.
The huge seizures are often touted as proof these countries are making inroads into vast regional drug trade. 
But law enforcement agents say they are just the tip of the iceberg, as producers ramp up production to meet growing demand across Southeast Asia and increasingly in Bangladesh and India.
In his closing remarks, Mr Kim Yan discussed a local issue, urging incoming Phnom Penh governor Khuong Sreng to develop the Trapaing Chhouk village area, a notorious hub for drug trafficking and drug use that has been raided during the government’s anti-drug campaign.
“Please rush to develop the area, because when there is development, the anarchy will disappear,” Mr Kim Yan said.
Additional reporting by AFP

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