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Drugs remain a ‘big issue’

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Anti-drug police hold a press conference to unveil more than 100 tonnes of drug busted in Kampong Speu province in December last year. Heng Chivoan

Drugs remain a ‘big issue’

Minister of Interior Sar Kheng said that in 2021, Cambodia continued to be negatively influenced by the illegal drug trade with a higher risk from drugs than previously.

In a report posted to his official Facebook page, the minister noted that although there was a decrease in the overall number of cases throughout 2021, major drug offences had actually increased with the police seizing more than 80 tonnes of drugs and chemicals used to make them.

In addition to the drugs and chemicals seized, he said the police had also confiscated a number of dangerous large-scale machines for the automatic processing of drugs in Phnom Penh as well as the provinces bordering Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. Other materials related to drugs manufacture had been routed through the postal service or arrived by sea.

He said that throughout 2021, the police had cracked down on 6,308 drug crimes – a decrease of 4,153 cases, or about 39.70 per cent, as compared to the previous year.

He detailed that there were 4,473 cases of drug possession, 1,789 cases of drug use, 37 cases of growing plant-based drugs and nine cases of synthetic drugs manufacture.

The police also arrested 13,979 suspects, of whom 8,672 were suspected of trafficking or possession of drugs; 5,264 were suspected of drug use; nine were suspected of growing drug plants and 34 were suspected of producing drugs. Among them, 365 were foreigners.

“Cambodia in 2021 continued to suffer under the bad influence of high-risk drugs in a negative situation that is only growing worse. The problem is due to a steady increase in drug production, circulation and trafficking in the world and in the region,” Sar Kheng said.

A report from the National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD) in 2021 said the police had also collected and sent the seized items to the municipal and provincial courts. The seizures consisted of 138 cars, 1,988 motorcycles, 6,554 mobile phones, 385 sets of scales, 50 rifles, 29 pistols, cash and 20 bank accounts.

“Although the Covid-19 crisis is not over yet, it is likely to come to an end one day. But this drug problem will not be so easily dealt with as criminals will still continue to find new ways to produce and distribute [illegal drugs],” Sar Kheng said.

He added that in early 2021, the government continued to focus on combating drugs and agreed to revise the “safe village-commune” policy and considered drug fight a priority.

Sar Kheng made renewed calls for law enforcement forces and all people to join in the fight.

“The crackdowns generally decreased, but the cases of major drug offences increased, with 84 tonnes of chemical compounds and more than four tonnes of drugs seized last year, especially in late 2021. At the beginning of 2022, we found more drugs,” NACD secretary-general Meas Vyrith said on January 31.

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