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Drug Seizures Triple in 2015

Taing Vida / Khmer Times Share:
Phnom Penh Municipal Police Chief Chun Sovan (2nd left) shows a report to Ke Kim Yan (R), chairman of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, Neth Savoeun (L), the National Police Chief, and deputy general chief of the National Police Mok Chito (2nd R) during a seminar on the annual report on drugs at the Ministry of Interior in Phnom Penh yesterday. KT/Chor Sokunthea

The number of people arrested on drug-related charges in Cambodia more than doubled last year, according to a report by the National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD). About 7,000 people were arrested last year, compared to just 3,142 in 2014, an increase that authorities are attributing to the growing popularity of Cambodia as a transit country for the drug trade.
In the opening ceremony of the annual meeting on drug control, NACD president Ke Kim Yan said Cambodia has become an increasingly popular transit country for the Southeast Asian drug trade, with many drugs coming into the country from the north and northeast. 
According to the NACD, in 2015, 3,061 drug offenses were prosecuted in Cambodia, compared to just 1,337 cases the year before. The drugs seized totaled over 1.5 tons, and included methamphetamine, ICE-WY (pills mixing methamphetamine and caffeine), heroin, and marijuana.
Drug use has spiked as well, with 16,575 drug users in the country, according to Mr. Kim Yan. “The increase could be due to many factors,” he said. “The number of users and producers has not decreased, but police competency in drug busts is low.” 
Mr. Kim Yan also blamed the country’s weak sentences for drug dealers, and pointed out that Cambodian migrant workers could be bringing drugs back to the country when they return from abroad. Once users are hooked, they have few options for rehabilitation programs, he added.
Part of Cambodia’s drug problem is simply due to ignorance, said Khieu Chantharith, spokesperson for the National Police. He said that awareness about the negative side effects of drug use and the possible legal penalties is still low. “More than half of drug addicts are not under any kind of monitoring or control,” he said.
While some analysts focused on the negative implications of the spike in drug-related arrests, Meas Sovann, president of the Drug Addict Relief Association of Cambodia, took a more optimistic view, saying that the arrests show the police are doing their job. “In 2015, more action has been taken [to arrest dealers] and the [report’s] result is based on that action,” Mr. Sovann said. 
He said that it is not just law enforcement that is responsible for preventing drug addiction – families also play a vital role. And he added that rehabilitation of drug users is as important as arresting dealers. “Although Cambodia is not a drug producer,” he said, “relevant authorities must also strengthen treatment facilities and help addicts.”

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