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Gov’t urged to stop spread of drug to rural Cambodia

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Parents visit their children at the DTA Rehabilitation Drug Addiction Treatment Centre. Heng Chivoan

Gov’t urged to stop spread of drug to rural Cambodia

Parents who have children that are using drugs have been expressing their concerns regarding the spread of drug use to rural areas across the country. The expanding scope of the problem has communities there afraid and demanding emergency containment measures.

Prum Ra, a 61-year-old mother, said her children’s friends persuaded them to try drugs and they became addicted.

She spoke with a sense of urgency in her tone, telling The Post: “It is seriously a mess. A lot of people get together to use drugs and now children are going all-out taking drugs and they can buy it so easily. I am very worried about my son. Even after coming to the [drug rehabilitation] centre many times, he just keeps using it.”

Im Savath, a 73-year-old Prek Kat villager in Takdol commune of Kandal province’s Takhmao town, said her community is seeing the same trouble due to rising drug use. Drug trafficking is widespread and the more common it is, the less dangerous it seems to children.

When her son fell into the trap of drug addiction, Savath was in pain – both emotionally and financially – because his habit also cost her a lot of money in addition to causing her so much grief.

She said when her son used drugs, he seemed to lose his mind and was not able to do any work.

Worried about her son’s situation, Savath sent him to a drug rehabilitation centre.

“Government, please stop all drugs trafficking. We can’t have people abusing drugs anymore for the good of society.

“No matter whose children they are, if they use drugs they will go out of their mind. And they are persuaded to use them because society is full of drugs,” she said.

Vann Thy, a mother of two living in Veal Rinh commune of Preah Sihanouk province’s Prey Nop district, said when she saw the widespread drug use in the community with her own eyes she became very worried.

“Before, drugs were hard to find out here even if you had money. But now as long as you have money, you can buy it easily, you can buy it everywhere. They sell drugs today like they are selling candy,” she said.

Minister of Interior Sar Kheng has also raised concerns about the growing drug problem.

He acknowledged that the number of drug traffickers arrested and prosecuted has increased and yet the spread of drugs into the community has not been reduced.

“We see that there are still problems and maybe even bigger problems than before ... because the drug market has become so widespread,” he said.

According to official police reports, in 2019 police made arrests in nearly 10,000 drug-related cases, an increase of more than 22 per cent. They arrested more than 20,000 suspects, an increase of over 2,000 suspects compared to 2018.

In 2020, over 10,000 drug crimes were busted nationwide leading to the detention of more than 20,000 suspects. More than 3,000kg of drugs and related contraband were confiscated, the report said.

Hang Pitou, administration office director of the DTA Rehabilitation Drug Addiction Treatment Centre, told The Post that there are many reasons why young people start using drugs, such as peer pressure.

He said drugs caused a lot of negative impacts physically and mentally and are harmful to family and society.

The illegal nature of drugs also led to increased robberies and killings in the community. He said if drug use keeps spreading unchecked it could cause social unrest and become impossible to manage.

According to Pitou, his drug rehabilitation centre has nearly 400 patients, with the number increasing over time. Parents who bring their children for treatment are not just from urban areas, but also from remote communities.

“In the past, we only saw drugs in some towns or slums. But now there is wide distribution and use, no matter how remote it is. If this situation continues on this way, the negative impacts will cripple society and no families will be safe,” he said.

Pitou called on the government to step up enforcement efforts, saying that instead of just busting the users, the authorities need to target the ringleaders who he said are responsible for trafficking large amounts of drugs into the country.

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