Minister of Health Mam Bunheng said on Wednesday that the ministry is planning a draft law to control online sales of cosmetics, body-building and other health-related products in a bid to prevent people falling victim to counterfeit or unauthorised goods that could be harmful to health.
Bun Heng made the announcement during a meeting with the Supreme Consultation Forum which was established following the July 2018 national elections and is tasked with giving recommendations to the government on various social issues.
Held under the theme Control of Fake Medicine and Cosmetic Products, Public Health Service Provision and Medical Ethics, Management of Private Clinics, and Health Sector Reform, the forum was chaired by its rotating president Pich Sros, who is also head of the Cambodian Youth Party (CYP).
Sros said the forum was called in response to the rapidly increasing number of online stores which he said sell health-related products without permits from relevant institutions.
Health Ministry spokesperson Loveasna Kiri could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
San Chey, the executive director of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, said the draft law was “unwarranted”. He said relevant institutions should instead strengthen the inspection of products imported from neighbouring countries for sales on the local market.
“We should place emphasis on commodities sold on land [markets] such as imports from Vietnam, Thailand and other countries. The imported goods are being sold domestically for Cambodians who need to use them on a daily basis. I think we should take measures against on-land goods before tackling online products, which are harder to control,” he said.
Chey said the relevant authorities should issue a guideline advising online vendors on the potentially harmful impact of their products and on procedures to import products for sale in the domestic market.
Online vendors, he said, needed clear guidelines on which products were considered harmful to public health, and which authorities would inspect their products.
“If we give them a guideline as a solution, they will follow. And if they are not willing to comply, we can always warn them of legal action. Then they will surely heed the instructions,” he said.
At the meeting, Sros also proposed a seven-point request to Bun Heng as part of efforts to protect public well-being.
He urged the ministry to finish drafting a bill on the management of alcoholic drinks, ensure medical staff follow a code of ethics and provide medical services for poor people who rely on social security funds in a transparent manner.
Sros also asked the ministry to provide clear information about the number of medical staff required for each local medical centre throughout the country, and to stop health officials extorting bribes from private clinics and money from medical practitioners in rural areas to secure their posts.
The ministry, he said, should also formulate a standard protocol regarding the use of textbooks for teaching at medical schools and provide suitable dormitories for medical staff, interns and medical students on study visits.