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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Kheng appeals for help in Kingdom’s drug war

Interior Minister Sar Kheng speaks at the closing of the annual NACD meeting yesterday in Phnom Penh.
Interior Minister Sar Kheng speaks at the closing of the annual NACD meeting yesterday in Phnom Penh. Pha Lina

Kheng appeals for help in Kingdom’s drug war

Interior Minister Sar Kheng yesterday appealed to the international community for aid in Cambodia’s drug war, while the country’s anti-drug chief continued to call for local officials to be given the authority to force drug users into compulsory “treatment centres” without a trial.

Speaking at the last day of the National Authority for Combating Drugs’ annual meeting, chairman Ke Kim Yan responded directly to an article yesterday in The Post in which an independent drug expert said his proposed policy would violate human rights. “We do not violate the people’s rights,” Kim Yan said yesterday. He asserted that “authorities” have the right within the law to force drug users to get treatment.

Cambodian law currently does allow for forced treatment of drug users, but only at the discretion of trial judges. Forced treatment in Cambodia has long been criticised, with a 2010 Human Rights Watch report describing state-run centres as sites of frequent abuse, often devoid of doctors and medication.

Kim Yan did acknowledge that the treatment centres require improvement, but appeared to blame the Ministry of Health for the lack of progress. “The Ministry of Health and the committee in charge of providing treatment and rehabilitating drug users seems to be slow in solving [the] problem,” he said.

Ministry of Health undersecretary of state Chhum Vannarith admitted that drug addicts aren’t receiving enough “services” in rehab, but denied that the ministry was responsible for the lack of progress.Interior Minister Kheng closed out the meeting with an appeal on behalf of Prime Minister Hun Sen for support.

“Samdech Techo Prime Minister and myself would like to take this opportunity to call for charities, civil societies, private sector actors, and national and international development partners to participate and support as much as possible,” Kheng said, asking for monetary and technical assistance.

Some international groups, however, expressed alarm in reaction to Kim Yan’s statements.

“If people arrested for drug use are detained in any facility, including ‘rehabilitation centres’, without due process then this amounts to a human rights violation,” said Gloria Lai, of the International Drug Policy Consortium, adding that “consent of the patient is required”.

Lai also said Cambodia’s current crackdown on drug use is employing ineffective methods.

“Those resources could instead be invested in implementing policy measures that are actually grounded in evidence,” she said.

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