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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Local drug use on the rise

Local drug use on the rise

The National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD) has said that more than 3,000

citizens are addicted to drugs in 17 provinces across the country. NACD deputy

secretary-general, Khieu Sopheak, said the government was concerned at the

potential dangers this poses to society.

"We are concerned drug addicts

will end up outside society, and that without health care and education they

could become criminals," Sopheak said. "That will cause a burden to both their

families and the government."

Sopheak's comments came after the NACD

completed its annual review of the national drugs situation for 2002. He said

figures in the report, which is as yet unreleased, showed the amount of

amphetamine tablets seized last year was nearly double that of the previous

year. The number of drugs raids was up one third.

Police conducted 83

raids and arrested 232 suspected drugs traffickers, among them citizens of

Vietnam, Taiwan, Singapore and Cameroon. More than 130,000 tablets of

amphetamine type substances (ATS) were seized, along with 1.9 kilograms of

heroin, 1,200 kilograms of marijuana, and around $8,000 in counterfeit US

currency.

Sopheak said the NACD, which operates out of the Ministry of

Interior (MoI), would open a 100-person treatment center in the capital by the

end of the year.

He acknowledged the country was used as a transit point

between 1992 and 1995, but had now become a place where drugs were both

manufactured and consumed.

One effect of that, he said, was that the

market price of ATS had declined from $5 a tablet to around $1, which had fueled

a rise in the number of teenagers abusing the substance.

Sopheak said

Cambodia would try to combat the regional flow of drugs by 2015, a goal to which

the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) recently committed

themselves.

Graham Shaw, international program officer at the UN Office

of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), agreed more people here were taking drugs, but felt

drug transiting through Cambodia was also rising.

"It is clear that

increasing numbers of young people are taking drugs, and it is also quite clear

that a large quantity of drugs is passing through Cambodia - for example from

Laos along the Mekong, and from Vietnam," he said. "We believe this situation is

getting worse."

As for the country's commitment to meet the 2015

commitment, Shaw said it would only be possible with international

assistance.

"Cambodia has the potential to meet the 2015 goal, but

[success will] depend on the international community's support and the

commitment of each part of government to develop capacity and address the

related problems of drugs and corruption," Shaw said.

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