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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Many drug users students

Many drug users students

Many drug users students

Research conducted by Cambodia's Drugs Rehabilitation Organization (DRO) has

found that of 500 Phnom Penh drug users surveyed in the last year, 33 percent

were students from primary school to university.

Students are primarily

using yama, a methamphetamine, and sniffing glue the DRO reported, but stated

that heroin use is also increasing.

However the government's drugs

authority and a youth welfare organization both cast doubt on the

findings.

Teng Savong, secretary-general of the National Authority for

Combating Drugs, said the survey was not representative because DRO had only

surveyed areas of the city with high drug use.

David Harding, technical

assistant for the Phnom Penh-based NGO Mith Samlanh, also questioned the figure,

saying it was too high.

DRO vice-executive director Poeun Thy said most

drug-using students were poor or lived in slums.

He said 65 percent of

students surveyed were persuaded by their friends to take drugs.

"It is

very difficult for us to tell who uses drugs. Drug-takers never admit that they

use," Thy said. "It is a new battle for our country at the

moment."

Savong said police records showed Cambodia had about 7,000 drug

users including 4,000 in Phnom Penh, but the real number of drug users in

Cambodia was probably closer to 35,000.

Drug use increased by about 25

percent in 2004 and 2005, but the increase was considerably less than in

previous years, Savong said.

"It is a new issue for Cambodia, so it is

difficult for us to crack down on," Savong said.

Authorities confiscated

more than 800,000 yama pills in 2004, but in 2005 the number dropped to nearly

300,000 pills.

"The trend of drug trafficking is decreasing though the

number of drug users is still increasing," Savong said.

He said the drugs

were trafficked from the golden triangle region of Thailand, Burma and Laos, and

that drug users are generally between 15 to 25 years old.

Yama use and

glue sniffing were common throughout Cambodia in 2003, Harding said, but heroin

use was growing fast, with many users injecting.

"It could be a problem

for the future of HIV/AIDS infection, security along with increasing crime,"

Harding said.

"The more people are affected with drugs, the more people

will die."

He said the reason for high drug use among youth in some areas

was because there was little else for them to do. If there was more space for

youth to play sport, or more opportunities for entertainment, young people would

be less inclined to turn to drugs.

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