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Fresh calls for liberal drug law

Fresh calls for liberal drug law

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Drug users smoke a mix of methamphetamine and heroin in Phnom Penh’s Boeung Trabek neighbourhood in this file photo.

DRUG law enforcement efforts should draw a clear distinction between those who traffic in drugs and those who use them, the head of the National Anti-Drug Authority (NADA) said on Tuesday.

Deputy Prime Minister Ke Kim Yan, president of NADA, said he will push for amendments to a new draft Drug Law before it is submitted to the Council of Ministers, in an effort to encourage the rehabilitation of the country's drug addicts.

"We want to make sure the law clearly differentiates between criminals who traffic, smuggle and deal illegal drugs, and victims who need to be educated and treated," Ke Kim Yan said at a meeting on the draft law at the Minsitry of Interior on Tuesday.

He added that between 30,000 and 40,000 people, most aged 15-35, were now involved with drugs in Cambodia.

"Without our treatment and rehabilitation services, the above-mentioned people will become a big illegal drug market in Cambodia because they cannot stop using drugs."

The NADA president's comments came following recommendations made by Prime Minister Hun Sen in his address on June 26, the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, when he asked that "all involved institutions join forces to build drug addict-rehabilitation centres and be active in taking measures to reduce the number of drug addicts".

WE NEED A LAW THAT CLEARLY MENTIONS REHABILITATION AND TREATMENT.

Hun Sen also announced plans for a new rehabilitation centre in Kampong Speu province, emphasising the need to treat drug users.
Ke Kim Yan said that under the current system of rehabilitation, addicts often relapse, burdening the system.

"To respond to Hun Sen's calls for an effective resolution on this problem, we need a law that clearly mentions rehabilitation and treatment for these people because most of the ... drug addicts are jobless street children."

He added that there are currently 13 drug rehab centres across the country but expressed hopes that improved rehabilitation would mean the number would not increase after the law is approved.

He said it was not clear when the draft law would be sent to the Council of Ministers.

A report from NADA released on July 25 revealed that 733 drug addicts have gone through rehabilitation programmes at the 10 state-run drug rehabilitation centres during the first half of 2009. The figure decreased compared to the same period last year, during which time 1,005 victims were rehabilitated.

Mok Dara, NADA's secretary general, said the number of drug addicts had decreased because authorities had implemented five measures in line with government policies, including reducing supply, reducing demand, strengthening law enforcement officials and strengthening international cooperation on anti-trafficking efforts.

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