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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Child briefly detained over meth packets

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A man injects a syringe of drugs into his vein in Phnom Penh. Heng Chivoan

Child briefly detained over meth packets

A child used to mule drugs in Oddar Meanchey province was briefly detained and released by military police late last week, after they found he had no knowledge of the substances he was trafficking.

The 13-year-old school student was apprehended with 16 packets of crystal methamphetamine on Thursday afternoon in O’Svay commune, Trapaing Prasat district military police chief Kong Dara said.

“He was recruited by another person to carry the drugs and after we questioned him, we found he was not involved with the drugs,” he said, adding the boy was also tasked with delivering canned drinks, cigarettes and other goods in a basket in exchange for 100,000 riel ($25).

“We do not have any evidence, therefore we cannot press the charges against the boy involved, and the one who recruited him was in Thailand.”

Legally, the boy cannot be held criminally responsible as he is under the age of 14.

“The village chief told us that he is a student and goes to study every day . . . He had [made such a delivery] once in the past and took that money for study,” Dara added.

Aimyleen Gabriel, child protection technical lead at World Vision, said that using children as drug mules “is exploitative and is a clear violation of their rights”.

“It is unconscionable that children are abused and exploited in this way,” Gabriel said.

“Not only does it put at risk their immediate physical safety, but long term it impacts their ability to trust those around them,” she said, adding children living in poverty were at a greater risk.

Additional reporting by Erin Handley

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