More than four tonnes of drugs were seized in the first five months of the year, a total which dwarves the total figures for 2023. In the same period, close to 9,000 people were arrested for drug-related offences.

Between January 1 and May 24, 8,925 individuals were arrested in 3,620 cases, according to Meas Vyrith, secretary-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD).

“Across all of our operations, over 4,425kg of drugs were seized. Most of the drugs are Methamphetamine, Ketamine or related substances,” he said.

He acknowledged that while the police force is working hard to crack down on drug crimes, there appears to be an increase in criminal activity.

“In short, criminal gangs continue to produce drugs in secret in the ‘Golden Triangle’ region. It is easy for them to manufacture narcotics there. The more drugs that are produced, the more drug shipments out of the area there is going to be,” he said.

He reiterated that even as criminals increase their production activities, the police are also working harder to employ measures to prevent the drugs from being produced and trafficked.

Vyrith explained that to eliminate these crimes, all stakeholders must focus on countering three aspects of the drug trade. 

He believed they need to first prevent the import of chemical precursors into the Golden Triangle area, then prevent the transport of drugs into the market after they are produced. Finally, measures to reduce consumption of the drugs must be introduced.

“If there is no demand for the drugs, there will be no manufacture or trafficking. Therefore, the three activities must be undertaken at the same time. It is really important that we educate the public, especially the youth, to say no to drugs,” he said.

“If the youth do not provide a market, the traffickers will not know where to sell their narcotics. Unfortunately, drug gangs appear to be using Cambodia as a distribution point for other markets,” he added.

In an effort to educate people about the dangers of drugs, while also allowing them to report drug issues to the authorities, the NACD launched the NoDrug app in April. To date, it has been downloaded over 8,600 times.

Plans are also underway to mark International Day Against Drug Abuse on June 26, when tonnes of drugs are destroyed by fire each year at the capital’s Koh Pich. Vyrith was unsure as to the quantities of drugs that will be destroyed at this year’s occasion.

Last year, nearly three tonnes of drugs were seized and some 20,000 people were arrested in around 7,000 drug-related cases.

Interior Minister and vice-president of the NACD Sar Sokha on May 27 advised authorities to strengthen their work. 

While addressing an anti-drug meeting in Banteay Meanchey province, he reminded them to pay close attention to the fight against drugs, in accordance with Prime Minister Hun Manet’s slogan of “Cleaning House”.

He also ordered investigations of rental locations that may be suitable locations for drug crimes. He instructed the authorities to conduct inspections of karaoke bars, nightclubs and beer gardens, which are currently used for smuggling, trafficking and drug use, according to the interior ministry.

He recommended that the Banteay Meanchey administration strengthen their cooperation with their neighbouring Thai counterparts. They should increase the exchange of intelligence with the Thai authorities, as combatting the drug issue is a major concern for both countries.