Monks have become the latest target of the government’s anti-drug campaign, as Interior Minister Sar Kheng announced he would be seeking ways to wipe out abuse of illegal substances in the clergy.
Mr Kheng yesterday presided over a meeting to evaluate the first six months of the national drug crackdown and plan action to be taken over the rest of the year.
He has asked Religion Minister Him Chhem to broadcast information about substance abuse to monks, who have in the past been caught taking drugs such as crystal methamphetamine, despite being in breach of their Buddhist vows.
“I asked Mr Chhem to join our public forum and come up with a programme to help monks too,” Mr Kheng said.
The Interior Minister added that the anti-drug campaign was growing in effectiveness, having already netted some ringleaders in big cases.
Authorities were working hard to arrest drug criminals who remained on the streets, he said.
Mr Kheng said a wider prevention drive over the next six months could involve a competition to compose an anti-drugs song, plus rewards for media outlets that publicised information about drug problems.
“The results of the first half of our anti-drugs campaign are just the first step toward preventing all production and trafficking of drugs to protect our people’s health and livelihoods,” Mr Kheng said.
The second part of the anti-drugs campaign runs officially from July 1 to December 31.
General Meas Vyrith, director-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, said police cracked down in 4,331 cases and arrested 9,694 suspects in the first half of the campaign.
They also seized 119.657 kilos of heroin, cocaine and crystal methamphetamine, 13,635 kilos of dry marijuana and 140,361 marijuana plants, as well as confiscating 54 vehicles, 962 motorbikes, four guns, nine rifles, 2,953 phones and money.
Compared with the last six months of 2016, Mr Vyrith said drug arrests in the first half of this year increased more than 130 percent.
According to NACD, drug use rose 24 percent from 2015 to 2016, up from 16,575 to 20,621 users. Those in rehab also rose, from 7,753 in 2015 to 11,901 in 2016.
Mr Vyrith added that even though the first part of the campaign has been a success, there were still many issues making Cambodia vulnerable to drug production and trafficking crimes.
“We must push harder to prevent and crack down on drug crimes, especially to prevent imports from abroad and find networks of big drug traffickers,” Mr Vyrith said.
Ke Kim Yan, deputy prime minister and chairman of NACD, said the drug problem in the country was far from being solved, with illegal substances continuing to flow over the borders.
“We recently confiscated more than 50 kilos of drugs from the northeastern border and then a few days ago, we confiscated more than five kilos of drugs coming into Stung Treng province,” Mr Kim Yan said.
Deputy national police chief Lieutenant General Mok Chito highlighted the fact the authorities have been successful in cleaning up the notorious drug village of Trapaing Chhouk in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district.
National Police spokesman Kirth Chantharith said more than $560,000 had been spent on the anti-drugs campaign so far, adding that a number of officers and media outlets would receive encouragement letters for their good work.