Interior Minister Sar Kheng yesterday called out the Phnom Penh Municipality – which he referred to as the country’s largest hub for drug trafficking and drug use – for not having yet submitted its action plan for the nationwide drug crackdown launched last month.
As of yesterday, the Ministry of Interior had received such plans from just 11 provinces, Kheng said during a meeting to mark the first month of the initiative.
“What interests me, is that Phnom Penh, which is the nest of drugs, hasn’t sent its action plan to the ministry,” he said, blaming Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Khuong Sreng and Phnom Penh police chief Choun Sovann.
Kheng noted that the very word “campaign” means there has to be a special program. “So, the rest that have not [submitted] an action plan have to finish it,” he said.
Met Measpheakdey, spokesman for Phnom Penh, yesterday insisted the municipality had been carrying out its work for the new anti-drug campaign, though under an action plan that already existed under the Anti-Drug National Committee. “That doesn’t mean we haven’t been doing the work under the new campaign,” he explained.
However, he added, after yesterday’s dressing down, officials began developing a new plan and convened a new committee albeit one largely comprised of members from the previous committee. “Now, we are [developing] it after what . . . Sar Kheng said,” he said.
As of yesterday, there had been a total of 1,041 drug-related cases handled by authorities involving 2,556 arrests, according to figures provided by Meas Vyrith, secretary-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs. Nearly 1,300 suspects were users.
Sovann said that during the first month there were 816 suspects arrested in Phnom Penh alone. Meanwhile, Ke Kim Yan, president of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, yesterday suggested officials single out specific locations as targets. “For example, in Phnom Penh, we should [target] places to work on like the Trapaing Chhouk community,” he said.
Measpheakdey and Sovann maintained Trapaing Chhouk was one of the identified hot spots for the city already. Sar Kheng believes there are anywhere between 10 and 20 drug ringleaders.