Illegal drug trafficking in the Kingdom skyrocketed in 2004 according to
information compiled by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
Compared with 2003, estimates of the amount of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS)
coming into the country increased ten times according to an annual report that
will be released in 2005. Figures indicate that as many as 500,000 Cambodians
may be involved in illegal drug usage.
"Yes, the illicit drug trafficking
and abuse situation is out of control in Cambodia," Graham Shaw, UNODC program
officer in Phnom Penh, told the Post on December 8.
He said that seizures
of ATS have increased exponentially, and somewhere in the region of 100,000
tablets are trafficked on average each day from the Lao border into Stung Treng
province in northern Cambodia and then primarily to Phnom Penh. Shaw said that
it would appear to be very organized regarding the larger cargoes of illicit
drugs trafficked by boat and overland by foot.
"It appears to continue to
happen now," said Shaw. "I would estimate that 2004 will see an exponential
massive increase in ATS seizures, as much as 5-10 times greater than in
He said it is difficult to estimate if imports of illicit drugs
are still on the rise, but indications such as seizures, street price and
availability of such substances strongly suggest that there are still relatively
large quantities of illicit drugs entering Cambodia for domestic consumption as
well as transiting to other countries in the region and beyond
also continues to flow into Cambodia, according to Shaw, but most is transited
onward to countries such as Vietnam, Australia and New Zealand.
that the problem was worsening because of the low capacity of law enforcement,
lack of adequate and well-maintained equipment, lack of specialized skills in
law enforcement, low salaries of law enforcement personnel and in the judiciary,
corruption, lack of knowledge regarding how to identify illicit drugs and how to
test substances when they are seized.
The Cambodia 2003 report on illicit
drugs said that specifically methamphetamines - referred to locally as 'yama',
'yaba', or 'ma' - are the most common drug available in virtually every urban
center of the county.
"Of great concern is the increasing number of
reports of yaba or yama use in rural areas associated with both labour-intensive
agricultural activities as well as due to social pressures," said the report.
Shaw said vulnerable persons included youth, especially school children from
around age 12 up to mid-20s, people in labour-intensive activities such as
construction, porters, agricultural workers, sex workers, truck and taxi
drivers, fishermen, junior military personnel, garment factory workers, and beer
"But the youth are the major area of concern owing to the
potential social and economic chaos caused by widespread drug abuse for the
future development of Cambodia," said Shaw.
He said that in general heavy
users can take at least three or four tablets of yama per day.
to Shaw the UNODC report on the illicit drug situation in Cambodia 2004 will
issued in March, 2005.
In 2003 a total of 349 people were arrested
nationwide for ATS-related offenses as compared to 223 in 2002.
were seven officially reported cases involving heroin in Cambodia in 2003, all
in Phnom Penh with a total of 46.72kgs seized. A total of 209,529 tablets of
methamphetamines were seized in Cambodia which is a rise of 66 percent as
compared with 2002.
Whilst methamphetamines trafficking is a great
concern, it is the trafficking of heroin through Cambodia from the area around
Myanmar and Laos that is causing the most concern in the international community
and the amounts appear to be increasing compared to previous years.
report said that stockpiles of heroin are believed to exist within Cambodia for
future shipment within the region and beyond. Shipping containers also appear to
be one of several methods of transporting heroin to the global market, including
North America, according to unconfirmed reports from sources within Cambodian
law enforcement agencies and elsewhere.
Shaw said that Cambodia's failure
to ratify the three international Conventions on drug control was due to the
political impasse following the national election on July 27, 2003. However,
there is no deadline and the Cambodian government can accede at any
"We will have to see whether the government as a whole shows the
willingness to proceed with debating and voting on the three Conventions as a
matter of urgency or whether further bureaucratic delays will be encountered,"
He warned that failure to accede to any of the conventions will
send a very bad signal to the international community that Cambodia is not
serious about its regional and international drug control
"It is quite likely that substantial support would be
offered by many of the larger donors following accession in order to help
Cambodia raise its domestic drug control procedures for example to meet the
international standards embodied within the three Conventions," he
International Narcotic Control Board (INCB) in its report for 2003
commends Cambodia on having completed the preparations for its ratification of
the three international drug control treaties and calls on Cambodia to ratify
those treaties as soon as possible.
Ngan Chamroeun, deputy secretary
general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD) said that the three
Conventions were already signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen, and had been sent to
the National Assembly both in English and Khmer.
"We want to be a member
of the treaties as soon as possible, but we had technical problem (political
impasse)," said Chamroeun. He said he agreed with the UN's information that the
drugs trafficking and abuse situation had increased
Chamroeun said that during the first eleven months in 2004,
the police seized 800,000 tablets of ATS, a fourfold increase when compared to
He said that in 2005, the NACD planned to establish a center for
drug treatment as the demand for treatment services had increased. The center
will be capable of serving about 400 addicts and serious addicts would face
compulsory drug rehabilitation treatment.
"We know there will be a
criticism of human rights abuses, but in order to reduce crime, and strengthen
security for the public we have to carry out the compulsory treatments," said
He said that the NACD would allow NGOs to deal with addicts
who volunteer for treatment.
"We know individual parents whose children
are addicts. They demand treatment but they do not know where to go, and cannot
educate their children and then let them freely go on the streets," said
Chamroeun. He said that reports from provinces across the country indicated
there were around 4,000 addicts, but in reality the figure was higher because
other addicts were hiding from authorities.
He also said that drug
awareness and prevention for youth was one of the key areas of cooperation
between NACD and the UNODC and other partner agencies such as the Ministry of
Social Affairs, Education, Health. NGOs were also playing a key role in raising
the awareness of people about the dangerous consequences of using illicit drugs.