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Balance on drugs

Dear Editor,

In response to Bill Bainbridge's article, "Cambodia a regional narco-Kingdom:

UN" (PPP 10/13), the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, ODCCP,

would like to make the following comments.

For ODCCP to perform its work well, we need to create an environment of increased

openness and close co-operation with many parties - government and non-government,

the general public and, indeed, also the media. In that spirit, we welcome your interest

in the many challenges regarding illicit drugs and drug-related crime that Cambodia

is facing.

However, parts of your article are either misleading or incorrect. A few examples:

The title of the article gives the reader the impression of this being a UN statement,

which is incorrect. At no occasion, either verbally or in writing, has the UN used

that kind of wording and by doing so, the Post can only create misunderstanding and

animosity between the many parties working together to address these problems.

Cambodia is not a regional narco-Kingdom! The article singles out Cambodia in a way

that is misleading. Cambodia is no doubt facing serious and increasing drug control

and organised crime related challenges, but so are all the countries in the region,

some of which have drug production, trafficking and abuse problems considerably more

serious than Cambodia is facing.

Unfortuantely, the article focuses on the negative aspects of the problem, neglecting

to recognise the improvements and achievements that have, after all, been made; strengthening

of the drug control legislation, training of law enforcement personnel, introduction

of drug abuse prevention programmes, launching public awareness campaigns and establishing

of close law enforcement co-operation with other countries of the region, just to

mention a few. A more balanced article would have given very much deserved and needed

encouragement to the many hard working people tackling these complex issues with

limited resources and in an environment that is quite often difficult.

By far the most serious drug control problem Cambodia is facing today is the rapid

spread of Metamphetamine abuse amongst many large population groups-such as middle

class teenage school children - but which is not mentioned in the article at all.

This is unfortunate as the general knowledge of this problem is still very low and

the media would be able to play a positive role.

The article deals with various aspects of illegal activities in Cambodia. However,

Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng (who by the way, is not the Secretary General of

the NACD) has only criticized UN statistics regarding Cannabis production, although

your article gives the misleading impression that his statement refers to all aspects

of the ODCCP country profile; this is not the case.

The ODCCP establishment of an office in Cambodia is, in part, in response to repeated

requests by the Cambodian Government, but also reflects ODCCP's understanding that

the country is subject to increasing threats from illicit drugs and organized crime.

Meeting these challenges will certainly not be easy, will take a long time and will

require the support of all parts of society, including the media.

We look forward to working with you on these issues in the future on the basis of

objectivity and mutual respect.

- Bengt Juhlin, Head of Office, ODCCP



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