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Sar Kheng cautions against freeing suspects in minor drug crimes

Taing Vida / Khmer Times Share:
Interior Minister Sar Kheng. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Interior Minister Sar Kheng has warned local authorities against releasing suspects allegedly involved in small-scale drug use and distribution.

Speaking at the appointment ceremony of the new governor of Kandal province yesterday, Mr Kheng said Cambodia’s anti-drug trafficking campaign has been successful over the past three years, adding nearly 1.5 tonnes of illicit drugs have been seized since 2017.

“We have cracked down on many large-scale drug-related crimes but drug traffickers keep importing drugs across the border to reach their secondary destinations. This somehow leads to small-scale drug use and distribution in some rural areas,” he said.

As a result, Mr Kheng said many villagers become victims and suspects of drug use and distribution. He called on local authorities, especially at commune levels, to take serious actions.

“I heard that sometimes our police and commune councilors arrested drug addicts and dealers in small scale-drug use and distribution cases. They were released just two or three days later since the crimes were not serious,” he said. “This is not right. Although I acknowledge the issue of prison overcrowding, they should be educated and taken to court for legal action.”

“How many people would become victims of drug use in rural areas [because of this]? This is a problem that we must not underestimate,” Mr Kheng added.

Newly-appointed Kandal provincial governor Kong Sorphon said yesterday he will follow Mr Kheng’s advice and regularly monitor his subordinates in implementing action against drug-related crimes.

“I will do my best to ensure safety and security under my jurisdiction.  I will conduct regular campaigns to combat, and prevent drug crimes,” he said.

Him Yun, director of the Coalition for Integrity and Social Accountability, said yesterday that releasing a drug suspect is a crime and legal action should be taken to prevent such acts.

“I understand some local  officials freed drug addicts or suspects because they know each other or because it’s just a small crime,” he said. “However, this is not right and it would lead to a bigger problem. I suggest the government take firm action against officials who conduct such wrongdoing.”

According to a Interior Ministry anti-drug trafficking department report, the number of drug-related crimes in 2019 rose by 19 percent from the previous year.

It said more than 20,000 suspects were arrested in 9,572 cases last year compared with 8,018 recorded in 2018.

A total of 720 kilogrammes of illicit drugs and 99.97 kilogrammes of dried marijuana as well as 94,441 marijuana plants were confiscated during raids in 2019.

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