A controversal ultimatum was issued yesterday by national police chief Neth Savoeun, which imposed a one-month deadline for police officials to rigorously target drug trafficking and abuse or face punitive action.
Khieu Samon, acting director of the National Authority for Combating Drugs at the Ministry of Interior, said that Neth Savoeun issued the order threatening all municipal and provincial police chiefs.
The directive states that those who fail to comply with the government’s standards on combating drugs will be promptly removed from their positions, he said.
The ultimatum was aimed at hampering drug activity in order to provide safety, security, healthcare and social development for the country, he said.
“It will become a strategy that will measure our police [performance], as well as other related authorities in combating and cracking down on drug trafficking and drug abuses in their communities and provinces in the future,” he said. “I hope that with the notice of this one-month ultimatum, all of our police officers will try their best and with their hard work and activities, we will be able to reduce the drug issue by the Millennium Development Goal [deadline] of 2015."
David Harding, a drug expert at the NGO Friends International, last night voiced concerns over the social implications that such an order could create.
“I can understand that the Cambodian government wants to exercise drug control, but to make quotas [dealing with] drug users is a process that interferes with a certain balance.
“There needs to be recognition of the health aspect related to drug use as well … there seems to be a lack of balance between health issues and national security,” he said yesterday.
“All [the ultimatum] is creating are increased arrest numbers for a period of respite where a small number of people are off the streets. If that is deemed a success then fine, but that’s certainly not what we view as a success.”
Pen Rath, deputy chief of the Phnom Penh Municipal Police, encouraged the government’s initiative and said that his police force has been increasingly targeting drug trafficking and drug abusers in the capital this year.
“On behalf of the Phnom Penh Municipal Police, I commit that I will try my best to combat all kinds of drug trafficking and drug abuse," he said.
Pen Rath added that since the beginning of this year until yesterday, a total of 167 cases of drug trafficking and drug abuse cases have been processed in Phnom Penh, in which more than 400 people were arrested and sent to court to face charges. Neth Savoeun was unavailable for comment.