Officials from provinces across the country gathered in Banteay Meanchey yesterday and the day before to learn about alternative community-based drug rehabilitation services and vocational training, anti-drug officials said.
Cambodia’s drug rehabilitation programs have largely revolved around involuntary drug detention centres, found to be rife with abuse, sexual violence and forced labour by a Human Rights Watch investigation in 2012.
But Meas Vyrith, secretary-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, said this week’s meeting provided an opportunity for provincial officials to learn about a different community-based approach being taken in Banteay Meanchey in the event that they want to follow suit.
Provincial social affairs department director Khun Vuthy encouraged other provinces to follow Banteay Meanchey’s lead in using community-based treatment programs. For example, as part of the vocational training, people are taught to raise chickens and grow vegetables, Vuthy said.
Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, yesterday said that community-based programs could lead to positive changes if there was adequate government commitment.
“If the Cambodian government is prepared to adopt a community-based model for its drug treatment programs, and move rapidly away from a detention center approach, I’m sure that they will find a lot of positive response and support in the international community,” he said via email.
Additional reporting by Yesenia Amaro