The number of people using illicit drugs is on the rise in Phnom Penh and elsewhere in the country, Cambodia's top anti-narcotics official says, warning also that addicts are turning to increasingly harder drugs.
Although he provided no data on the numbers of drug users, Lieutenant General Lour Ramin, secretary general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, said at the organization's annual meeting on May 21 that 42 drugs cases had been investigated in the first three months of this year, resulting in 67 arrests.
"More people are looking for happiness from drugs ... drug users are spreading out into the provinces," he told the Post on June 2, adding that Cambodia's developing economy meant more people had the money to spend on narcotics.
"We've found that there is an increase in the use of injected drugs because people are looking for a faster high," he added.
The drugs cases investigated this year showed that traffickers based in the Golden Triangle region bordering Myanmar, Laos and Thailand were still targeting Cambodia as an easy trans-shipment point," Ramin said.
"We see that the same sources of drugs trafficking are continuing," he said.
Ramin said that in 2007, the authorities acted in 152 cases and arrested a total of 279 people.
He said that in 15 months to the end of last March, the authority seized 467,905 methamphetamine pills, 7,043 grams of Ice, 12,430 grams of heroin and 5,770 kilograms of amphetamine-type stimulants.
The number of methamphetamine pills seized in Cambodia had fallen from 428,553 in 2006 to 390,987 last year, Ramin said.
The May 21 meeting was attended by more than 100 police and military police from throughout the country, who agreed on the need to strengthen collaboration with neighboring countries to help combat smuggling.
The move is in line with the authority's 2008 action plan, which calls for provincial narcotics authorities to play a key role in intercepting traffickers.
Ramin said the authority will strengthen and expand the Border Liaison Office mechanism in priority areas, such as along the borders with Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.
Meanwhile, a survey released on May 29 by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime has found that amphetamines were used by 67 percent of those who reported ever using an illicit drug, while 40 percent said they had used it during the previous month. The survey was conducted in 60 communes in 12 provinces with high rates of drug abuse.