A senior national anti-drug official on Tuesday called on authorities, educators, students and all citizens to help prevent drug use and trafficking.
The appeal by National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD) deputy secretary-general Thong Sokunthea follows a 2018 anti-drug campaign which saw 16,139 people detained in 7,979 cases, with 44 people on average arrested per day.
Sokunthea was speaking at a dissemination and education event on road safety and the dangers of illegal drugs at Svay Rieng Provincial Teacher Training College which was attended by hundreds of police, Military Police, educators and students.
He said although Cambodian authorities have arrested ringleaders and traffickers, the issue of drugs remained a concern.
Sokunthea said according to NACD data, there are 16,000 drug users in the Kingdom, some of whom were in prison, but he said the figure could be higher as one drug user often distributes drugs to another three to five people.
“What we are doing now is related to the drugs issue. With the growing development of our country, drugs are causing problems. The most important thing is to prevent it from disrupting our development. We must have measures to prevent drug use."
“If we can arrest one, it means there may be another three people that we have not arrested. So if we multiply tens of thousands by this number, it could be millions."
“It is so many. If [the number] increased to 50,000 or 60,000, [it shows] there is a large demand for drugs. A drug user may spend $10, and if it is 50,000 [users], how [much is that]?” he asked.
‘Not a drug producer’
Sokunthea said Cambodia is not a drug producing country and most drugs are transported from the Golden Triangle area.
He said some people who are not aware of the issue fall into becoming drug users and then when they do not have enough money to buy drugs, decide to become dealers or traffickers.
“Crafty people try to deal drugs no matter how hard we crack down . . . When they sell drugs, it means they are trafficking them – there is no exemption from the law. Please be careful,” he said.
Svay Rieng deputy provincial police chief Keo Sotha, who attended the event, said the number of drug cases in the province has increased as the demand is there, but the authorities had made efforts to stamp it out.
He expressed optimism that such events and a broad education campaign would help to reduce drug use.
“We hope there will be a reduction in drug use and trafficking when the national authority cooperates with the ministry to educate people at all high schools and educational institutes because some drug use involves youths,” he said.
The NACD report said that of the 16,139 people arrested last year, 1,339 were female. It said 310 were foreigners, from 24 countries, with 48 of them being women.
There were 5,033 cases involving trafficking, storage, processing and growing. In total, 9,049 people were arrested, 913 of whom were female. Drug use accounted for 4,946 cases, with 7,099 people arrested, of which 4,260 were female.
NACD secretary-general Meas Vyrith said: “This work is important to prevent the spread of drug use into educational establishments.”
He said the authorities do not focus on only one target but create forums to meet vulnerable targets and educate core trainers so they have knowledge of the drug issue and can disseminate it further into grassroots areas.
“The issue needs mechanisms in various sectors to prevent drug use and encourage [addicts] to receive treatment in order to narrow the market.”