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A police officer searches a walkway in Phnom Penh’s Trapaing Chhouk village in February during a drug raid organised by the National Police.
A police officer searches a walkway in Phnom Penh’s Trapaing Chhouk village in February during a drug raid organised by the National Police. Hong Menea

New five-point plan to tackle drug slum

The government has announced a new action plan to deal with the drug problem in Trapaing Chhouk, a slum in the capital’s Sen Sok district that has been an open market for drug use and distribution for over a decade.

Meas Vyrith, secretary general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, yesterday described the situation in the Theuk Thla commune village as “uncontrolled”.

The new five-point plan meant to curb the drug problem in one year, with updates due on a three-monthly basis, reflected a need to change management of the area, Vyrith said.

It included improved public outreach, providing protection to citizens who report offences, restructuring local administration of the area and offering information to families about community-based treatments as opposed to more punitive detention facilities such as Orkas Khnom.

Authorities must also operate in a more integrated fashion, “like a music band – they have guitar, piano, drums”, he said.

“The fight against drugs is to control the suspected drug dealers and distributors,” he said, adding that police also appealed to monks and the wealthy to engage with authorities.

Beyond the difficulties of the village’s maze of wooden walkways and close-quarters, drug dens were difficult to track to owners who “rent the place to one person and the other person rents it further on”.

“We know that the landlord benefits from the first renters … and so forth,” he said.

For now, investigations have identified two landlords “who have a huge amount of land and we are dealing with this”.

While Vyrith did not elaborate on whether charges may be brought against the individuals, he pointed to articles in the Drug Laws showing that abetting the distribution of drugs by rental of property can carry five- to 10-year sentences with 2 to 10 million riel fines. But, he said, “We need evidence.”

Authorities’ current lead on the source of drugs, he continued, was that a “west African cartel” operated in the area.

Vyrith said impurity profiling tests could be used to determine whether drugs came from the same source. But the NACD’s machine had been out of operation for a month due to a lack of funding and an expired software licence, he said.

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