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Drug use on rise in Kingdom

Government officials light a fire to dispose of more than a tonne of confiscated drugs near Phnom Penh last year.  Meng Kimlong
Government officials light a fire to dispose of more than a tonne of confiscated drugs near Phnom Penh last year. MENG KIMLONG

Drug use on rise in Kingdom

Methamphetamine use and trafficking is a growing concern in Cambodia, where seizures of meth pills nearly tripled in a single year, the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime an-nounced yesterday.

The UNODC’s 2013 World Drug Report, released on the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking yesterday, shows that increasing methamphetamine use in Cambodia is part of a broader trend in the region.

However, no country saw a greater increase than Cambodia’s 189 per cent jump in meth pill seizures between 2010 and 2011, the report says, noting that the number of pills seized nevertheless was small when compared with numbers from countries like Thailand and China.

“In the East and Southeast Asia Region in general, the manufacture, trafficking and consumption of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) is increasing and a worsening problem,” said Olivier Lermet, country manager for the UNODC in Cambodia.

“Cambodia continues to serve as a transit country for drugs produced in Myanmar, most of which enter Cambodia from its northeastern border with Laos. Drug traffickers, in particular those from China and West Africa, traffic drugs out of Cambodia via international airports in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.”

ATS, which include meth and ecstasy, are “by far the most trafficked and consumed” drugs in Cambodia, he added.

“There is also some evidence of methamphetamine production in Cambodia, shown by the seizure of labs in Cambodia, throughout the last year,” he said.

Indeed, Cambodia numbered sixth in the world among “most frequently mentioned countries of provenance for individual drug seizure cases” for ATS between 2001 and 2012, after the Netherlands, Laos, Germany, the UK and Myanmar, according to the report.

Cambodia was also one of several countries in 2011 to seize a record amount of crystal meth, though again, the 19 kilogram bust was small compared with other countries’ records, the report says.

While meth pills are still the most common ATS in the region, the report warns that in 2011 “seizures of crystalline methamphetamine, however, increased to 8.8 tonnes, the highest level in the past five years, indicating that the substance is an imminent threat”.

The report also singles out Cambodia and China as key sources of safrole oil, a precursor for ecstasy.

During a speech to mark the International Day Against Drugs, Prime Minister Hun Sen said yesterday that Cambodia increasingly faced drug threats from across its borders.

“Some people in northwestern Cambodia, migrants, street children, workers and youths use and are addicted to drugs because they are not aware of the influence and danger of drugs,” he said, adding that the majority of users are between the ages of 15 and 35.

In response to the threat, the government was actively educating and rehabilitating addicts, and authorities had been arresting and punishing traffickers and dealers, he said.

Lermet stressed that in addressing addiction, the government should continue to develop evidence-based community treatment centres as an alternative to compulsory treatment centres, which have been repeatedly condemned by human rights groups.

Additional reporting by Cheang Sokha

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