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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Drug busters take aim with new weapon

Drug busters take aim with new weapon


Confiscated drugs at the NACD forensics lab.


he launch of a new regional drug analysis program on September 4 may give officials

the ability to trace illicit drugs-primarily amphetamine type substances (ATS)-back

to their manufacturers and clamp down on clandestine drug labs.

Meas Vyrith, laboratory director at the National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD),

will head the new initiative, the Drug Analysis and Impurity Profiling Program. He

said Cambodia's drug problem is at a critical point.

"We are at the intersection," he said. "One way we go to hell, one

way we go to heaven." He added that since ATS drug use is relatively new to

Cambodia, rising levels of drug use could be reduced.

The Drug Analysis and Impurity Profiling Program was conceived in 2000 with the United

Nations Narcotics Control Board (UNNCB). The government sees the program as an additional

way to manage a problem that has grown worse over the last three years.

With a donation by the Japanese government of a drug analysis machine, known as a

gas chromatograph, and training for a staff of nine, the lab will begin operating

this month.

The machine can analyze the molecular compounds of a drug sample and determine its

exact chemical signature.

Once the compounds are identified, forensics and law enforcement officials could

compile profiles on the drugs, Vyrith said. These records may eventually allow them

to track drugs back to their labs and makers.

These results would also be made available to other Southeast Asian countries such

as Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, and Burma. Those countries have already been given gas

chromatography machines by the Japanese government. The NACD hopes that such international

cooperation will lead to large-scale drug busts.

Vyrith said he thinks the drug problem in Cambodia has links to Thailand where the

substances are widespread. But he said Laos may now be the main source of drug imports

into the country.

Ngan Chamroeun, director of NACD's International Cooperation Department, underscores

that his office's major concern is the cheap and widely available synthetic drugs.

"Heroin is only available to the high-class and rich," he said. "But

[drugs such as Yaba] only cost $1 a pill and are abused mostly by youth." In

places like Poipet, he said those drugs are even cheaper at just 1000 riel a pill.

He warned that the threat is magnified because the drugs are cheap and easy to manufacture.

Vyrith agreed. "Any chemist can make yaba," he said. "We need to get

to the big guys."



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