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Battambang schools fear drug spread

Battambang schools fear drug spread

Teachers and government officials in Battambang province have told the Post that

increasing numbers of students there are taking the drug yaba, and have warned they

expect the situation to worsen.

Khim Bun Chhon, head of the youth office at Preah Monivong High School, said 50 students

at the school were taking drugs, principally yaba, a chemical stimulant or methamphetamine.

However he thought that number was probably too low - the school has 4,000 pupils,

some of whom have dropped out after becoming addicted.

"This is only an estimate," he said. "I think there could be more

because this year many students are using drugs. I asked some of them about it when

I saw them behaving strangely, and they said they were taking drugs."

Bun Chhon said the local authorities bore some responsibility for the rise in addiction,

as they had not taken firm action against drug dealers.

"I believe that drug use by students will increase in the future," he said.

"They know where to buy drugs from drug dealers, so why don't the local authorities?"

Chea Thorn, Battambang prov-ince's deputy police commissioner, agreed the drug had

arrived in schools in the district, but felt the situation was under control. He

said the province was merely a transit point for smugglers from Thailand and Cambodia's

northeast.

The UN's International Drug Control Program report for 2001 noted that yaba does

pass through Battambang, but stated that the drug was also being produced in "significant

quantities" in the province.

Thorn said the police had taken concerted action against the smugglers. Since January

this year, tip-offs had led his officers to conduct ten raids, with 12 arrests, and

more than 3,000 yaba tablets and half a kilogram of black opium confiscated. Officers

had taken part in drug education programs.

Lak Yuthea, a deputy director at the National Authority for Combating Drugs, said

that such programs had come late to the northwest provinces, leading to an ever-increasing

number of addicts. Last year a drugs awareness seminar was held for district and

commune chiefs and school teachers. The authority now aimed to target its message

at school children.

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