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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Meas Vyrith, secretary general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD)

Lift interviewing with Mr. Meas Vyrith, secretary general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs.
Lift interviewing with Mr. Meas Vyrith, secretary general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs. Hong Menea

Meas Vyrith, secretary general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD)

According to a report by the Australian National Council on Drugs, injecting methamphetamines among young addicts is on the rise in Cambodia, as users have begun to switch from smoking to injecting.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime has also expressed concern, as more than half the population is under the age of 25. The government has estimated that up to 75,000 Cambodians, mostly young people, use illegal drugs.

Who are drug users and why do they want to get involved in illegal drugs?
We normally say only rich young people use drugs, but any youth can use drugs. Some think that drugs can help solve problems. Some think when they use drugs, they are charismatic, while others think drugs can reduce stress and help them study harder.

If compared to the previous year, is the number of drug users increasing or decreasing?
We are doing a survey on the number of drug users in Cambodia. Recently, we have been cooperating with the Global Fund for support to hire professional experts, at the same time we also work with the Ministry of Health and anti-drug police. We lead the action to collect and get exact data on drug users. We already have the data and are waiting for the right day to spread the information. It is in between 12,000 and 28,000.

In the previous survey, the number of drug users was around 7,000. Some people said this figure should be multiplied by five or 10. In order to respond to the challenges we face, we have to take action to find the real figure of drug use so that everyone can use the figure.

Where do all the drugs come from?
Cambodia is not a place where drugs are produced. In contrast, this country is the victim of drug trafficking. The main countries that drugs here are produced in are Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. The second set of countries includes Myanmar, Thailand and Laos​. The drugs are being trafficked through Cambodia to other destinations.

If compared to the neighbouring countries, how big is drug trafficking in Cambodia?
Thailand ranks first and Laos and Vietnam rank second. The amount of drug trafficking and drug use is less than that in those countries. In 2012, we made arrests over drugs which were worth about $1 million, but this year the number is down because we use good strategies to control the situation.

What kinds of drugs are being used among youth in Cambodia?
Young people are the target of drug sellers because they are easily fooled. Amphetamines, in pill and crystal form called methamphetamine, are being used by the young people.

How bad is it if people use these illegal drugs?
Drug use can affect your health. Even though some drugs cannot cause death, more or less they will give users some bad effects. Drug users will find it difficult to get away from drug use. It was found that drug users can be controlled by drugs and they commit crimes at least nine times a month. Using drugs by smoking or injecting is risky. It can cause death because of heart attacks when using non-pure drugs with poisonous chemical products added if they are injected. Also, drug users can also face some diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C.

What is your strategy to tackle the problem?
We have five strategies. First is to reduce the need of drugs. We will take action that make people understand and say no to drugs. Second is to reduce the supply of drugs. The police will take action against the production and trafficking of illegal drugs. Third is to reduce the danger caused by drugs. We will raise awareness of the protection of any disease and provide them medical care. Fourth is to strengthen the ability of the police. They have to improve their skills so they can be flexible to solve problem. ​Fifth is to have good international cooperation because no country in the world can solve the drug problem alone.

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