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Rocketing drug use

The Phnom Penh Post has produced some very good reports concerning the problem of

illicit drug abuse and trafficking over the past few years and the UNODC in Cambodia

views the media as a very important part of the fight against illicit drugs in the

country through raising public awareness of this important issue.

However, I would like to take this opportunity to clarify several key errors in the

report entitled, "Rocketing drug use alarms government" ( Post February

27, 2004).

One of the most serious mistakes occurs when I am quoted as saying that, "there

were strong indications that military and police are providing protection to drug

traffickers. The substance of evidence was not available, but he asserted that military

and police are directly involved in drug trafficking".

My comments related to the strong indications that some military and police appear

to be providing protection to drug traffickers, rather than stating that all of them

are involved. Also, the reporter's use of the phrase, "The substance of evidence

was not available", is confusing. My comments related to the fact that nobody

has ever provided evidence to the UNODC to support claims of system-wide direct military

or police involvement in drug trafficking.

Another error was made towards the end of the article when it was reported that the

UNODC's new Regional Representative for East Asia and the Pacific, Mr Akira Fujino,

"said two weeks earlier, when he was at a conference in Australia, the Australian

police representative reported that they had seized 750 kg of drugs smuggled from

Cambodia".

Akira Fujino told the meeting on February 24 at the Ministry of Interior that he

had attended a conference in Japan (not Australia) and that a representative from

the Australian Federal Police had told the conference that 750 kg of Ephedrine -

which is not a drug but is a precursor chemical used in the production of the drug

'methamphetamine' or yama - had been seized in Australia after it had transitted

through Cambodia en route to Australia.

The article also goes on to say, "A meeting in Phnom Penh on February 24 and

25 at the Ministry of Interior to review the National Authority for Combating Drugs'

work against drug abuse in 2003, and set objectives for 2004..." However, the

meeting was to review and clarify the responsibilities of each government ministry

in the control of illicit drugs in Cambodia. There are also various other, more minor

errors related to statistics in the article.

The UNODC appreciates that much of the terminology used in the drug control sector

is new to Cambodia, and especially to reporters who are new to such issues. We hope

to provide training to members of the local media in drug control issues and to assist

in issuing a guide to the vocabulary used so as to assist in the writing of effective

articles.

I would be most grateful if you would publish this clarification in your next edition.

I also hope that the Post will continue its important work in raising drug control

issues with the public and to follow the highest possible journalistic standards.

Graham Shaw - Programme Officer (Coordinator) UN Office on Drugs

and Crime Phnom Penh

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