A spike in drug use in Ratanakkiri has prompted a province-wide campaign to explain the dangers of substance abuse
Most of the drugs used in Ratanakkiri’s neighbouring provinces Stung Treng and Preah Vihear are trafficked down the Mekong from Laos. The isolation of Cambodia’s northern provinces also provides the perfect environment for drug production.
FACED with spiralling drug use among Ratanakkiri's ethnic minorities, provincial officials have launched a province-wide drive to fight substance abuse.
So Neak, deputy governor of Ratanakkiri, told the Post that the campaign was launched in Banlung last week and will travel to Veun Sai, Bokeo and O'Yadaw districts in October.
"We are holding a campaign against drug use to alert people to the dangers of drugs because the number of drug users has increased in the province this year," So Neak said.
"We want people to be careful and to prevent drug use from spreading."
Land sales boost drug buys
More than 90 people have already been caught using or trafficking drugs in Ratanakkiri this year compared with 60 at the same time last year, So Neak said, adding that the drug traffickers in the province were targeting rural minorities.
"While some drug users are children of rich people or officials in provincial areas, most are minority people in the province's districts," he said.
"Approximately 70 percent of the drug users are minority people. They have a lower level of education so they are easily cheated into taking drugs."
Pen Bonna, the provincial coordinator for human rights watchdog Adhoc, said that minorities are particularly prone to drug abuse because many have recently cashed in from land sales.
"Minority people have money from selling their land and they give it to their children who use it to buy alcohol and drugs," Pen Bonna said.
We want people to be careful and to prevent drug use from spreading.
"They use drugs because drug dealers lie to them and tell them that drugs will make them stronger and happier."
But Moek Dara, director of the Drug Department of Interior Ministry, said the overall number of drug users in the Kingdom has remained steady despite provincial swells in numbers.
"There were approximately 6,000 drug users in Cambodia last year and this year the number has been the same," he said.
"The number of drug users hasn't increased because we have frequently cracked down on drug use.
A decrease in the number of drug users will depend on education and prevention measures," he said.