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UNODC regional adviser Olivier Lermet touts voluntary rehab services for drug users as a part of a balanced drug policy last week in Phnom Penh. UNODC

Porous borders let drugs pass: UN

A United Nations drug taskforce reported yesterday that trafficking is still rampant across the porous borders of Southeast Asia’s East-West Economic Corridor, citing a want of resources and lack of cooperation between governments and domestic agencies.

“Preliminary findings show that in addition to gaps in interdiction capacities at formal border crossings, informal crossings are also numerous,” the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime stated in a press release.

UNODC completed a weeklong assessment in border areas in Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar in cooperation with local authorities. A Cambodian delegation attended the assessment as “a proactive observer”, offering recommendations and future cooperation.

Cambodian authorities have long maintained that the influx of drugs to the Kingdom is a result of trafficking from other countries, particularly from the Golden Triangle of Laos, Myanmar and Thailand.

“A primary aim of the series of assessments was to pinpoint pertinent trafficking routes, and allocate more resources accordingly,” said UNODC regional adviser Chandu Bhandari.

He also said a lack of cooperation is holding the region back.

Last week, the UNODC also held a training workshop in Phnom Penh, focusing on community based and voluntary treatment. Cambodia has long been criticised for forced detention of drug users in prison-like “rehabilitation centres”, and the head of the country’s anti-drug unit recently suggested bypassing the judicial system entirely.

“There is a need to increase the enrolment of patients at the community level and voluntarily. For this there is a need to increase the quality of treatment,” said Olivier Lermet who headed the workshop, adding that voluntary treatment “simply works better than confinement”.

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