The ASEAN member nations, including Cambodia, have agreed to strengthen operations to curb drug trafficking across the region.

The commitment was made during the eighth meeting of the ASEAN Working Group on Drug Matters in Ports, held virtually on December 13. The meeting was organised by the Lao National Commission for Drug Control and Supervision (LCDC), which hold the rotating chair.

The attendees reviewed current reports on the results of monitoring operations into the present situation in each of the 10 member states, and then agreed to enhance their anti-drug cooperation.

Khorn Darasambath, director of the National Authority for Combating Drugs’ (NACD) Law Enforcement Department, headed a delegation of Cambodian specialists at the meeting, which was attended by all 10 ASEAN members as well as officials from the ASEAN secretariat.

“The meeting aimed to examine the drug situation and trends in ASEAN countries, challenges in the fight against drugs and case studies of maritime drug offences, as well as plan for future cooperation,” said a December 13 press release from the secretariat.

The meeting also made a current list of the liaison officials of the working group.

Yang Peou, secretary-general of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said the problem of cross-border drugs in ASEAN countries is a large one, and is noticeable in Cambodia, where drugs are now spreading to remote areas.

He warned that drugs not only affect people’s health, but the economy and society, and not just in their own country but in the region.

He suggested that the bloc’s members take concrete measures to address the issue of drugs, and ensure that real action is taken, rather than just holding meetings and sharing political messages.

Peou believes the members should look for practical scenarios that could prevent inter-ASEAN smuggling from taking place.

“The spread of drugs is almost as dangerous as the spread of Covid-19, as once they are absorbed by a human body, they cannot be removed. People can lose their intelligence, physical strength, and even develop chronic diseases. I urge the ASEAN member countries to put practical measures in place, rather than just holding meetings and creating nice political messages,” he said.

Last week, Neth Savoeun, deputy prime minister and NACD president, reminded all NACD officials of the importance of training sub-national authorities, while also conducting carried outreach education programmes and law enforcement actions to combat drugs.

He compared combating drug crime in Cambodia to a battlefield, and placed a high priority on educating the public as widely as possible. He believes this is one of the most efficient ways of fighting the threat, in line with the government’s policy.

He explained that educating people so they understand the effects and dangers of drugs, as well as the tricks employed by criminals, is the most important work. Some reforms need to be conducted so the people’s attention is captured by the education campaigns, particularly among the vulnerable youth.

“The first priority is to promote education. We must work together to make our people understand. The NACD general secretariat must study our plans and content, and develop new methods and materials that will be popular and easy to follow,” he said.