The National Authority for Combatting Drugs (NACD) burned more than four tonnes of illegal drugs in Phnom Penh on July 19, while another three tonnes of other drugs will be neutralised using other means.

The bonfire event was organised to celebrate the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, which fell on June 26 but was postponed due to Covid-19- related considerations.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court prosecutor Chreung Khmao, who serves as chairman of the drug destruction commission, said during the ceremony in Meanchey district that all of the illegal drugs were evidence collected by the municipal and provincial courts of Svay Rieng, Kampong Chhnang, Prey Veng and Takeo.

According to the prosecutor, there were over 7,551kg of illegal drugs which served as evidence in 39 drug trafficking cases in Phnom Penh; more than 3.4kg of drugs from 57 trafficking cases in Svay Rieng; over 387g of drugs from 121 trafficking cases in Kampong Chhnang; over 1kg of drugs from 84 trafficking cases in Prey Veng; and more than 828g of drugs and 36kg of marijuana from 38 trafficking cases in Takeo.

“The total drug is 7,624.31kg. We will destroy them by burning and neutralising them. The burning will account for 4,384.317kg and the drug substances to be neutralised amount to 3,239.993g,” the prosecutor said.

He said the substances that needed to be neutralised were highly flammable and could cause harmful effects to the public and the environment if burned. NACD officials will neutralise those substances later according to technical procedures.

The prosecutor said drugs caused health problems and led to crimes such as murder, rape, theft, robbery, domestic violence and other activities which caused disorder in society.

He said the police, Military Police and the courts had tried their best to take strict legal action against these criminals.

“There were some questions from people saying they did not know where the drugs were taken to after the arrests were made. This event is in response to those question and we are taking action that the general public can see,” Khmao said.

Hang Choeun, director of the Drug Addict Relief Treatment Education Training Association, applauded the crackdowns on drug-related crimes and the destruction of the hard evidence. He said if such a huge pile of drugs was not destroyed, it could end up harming tens of thousands of youth.

“The destruction is to reduce the trafficking of drugs in our country. I only have a small centre which can contribute to the relief and treatment of drug addiction. We only treat the drug addicted who come to us for treatment,” he said.

According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s report, Synthetic Drugs in East and Southeast Asia: latest developments and challenges 2021, the methamphetamine market in East and Southeast Asia has continued to expand, although the Covid-19 pandemic forced many governments to put in place restrictions on mobility in terms of trade and transport.

The report said Myanmar remained the main source of illicitly manufactured methamphetamines in the region. Cambodia, however, is showing increasing signs of use as a hub for large-scale illicit methamphetamines manufacture.

“These developments suggest that organised crime groups have increasingly targeted Cambodia to diversify their methamphetamines supply channels,” the report said.

It said the market for crystalline methamphetamine seemed to have expanded in 2020 as evidenced by seizures that exceeded the combined amount confiscated in the four preceding years.

“Average retail prices for methamphetamine tablets dropped even further in 2020 than in 2019 to only $1 per tablet while purity remained stable, indicating continued widespread availability of the drug,” the report said.