Minister of National Defence Tea Seiha has warned that he will pursue strict legal action against any members of the armed forces who are involved in the use of drugs, noting that they would be dismissed immediately.

The strict warning came as he inspected progress of the construction of the Anglong Veng Win-Win Monument in Oddar Meanchey province. He also paid a courtesy call on the command staff of the Army Division 4, which is responsible for defending the territorial integrity of the historical site, close to the Thai border.

A defence ministry social media post quoted Seiha as saying that in accordance with the Pentagonal Strategy of Prime Minister Hun Manet’s seventh mandate government, the army must be reformed, with a focus on physical fitness.

He warned that strict action would be taken against any soldiers involved in the use or sale of illegal drugs, saying would be removed from their posts and prosecuted, without exception.

“In addition, from now on, all candidates must go through at least four drug tests before entering the army,” he added.

Am Sam Ath, deputy director at rights group LICADHO, said on September 24 that the new defence minister’s statement demonstrated a strong commitment to the prevention and control of drugs.

He believed that solutions to the drug problem must begin with individuals, and was adamant that members of law enforcement agencies must also stay away from narcotics.

“The introduction of these new measures is an excellent way to reduce drug use, as well as protect the morale and value of the armed forces, but unfortunately, some users – including members of the armed forces – are merely victims of the amount of drugs they are being trafficked or distributed in Cambodia,” he explained.

He conceded that the minister’s warnings would make a contribution to the suppression and prevention of drug crimes.

“The root of the drug problem is complex. This is not unique to the Kingdom, as many countries are facing similar challenges. We must have effective measures to combat it, as the scourge of drugs harms society and depletes our human resources,” he said.

In the first eight months of this year, the National Police and National Gendarmerie investigated 5,060 cases of drug use and trafficking, arresting 12,356 suspects.

According to a recent report by anti-drug authorities, 2.6 tonnes of illegal drugs were seized in the same period, along with nearly a tonne of the precursor chemicals used to manufacture illegal narcotics.