Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Mekong states sign on to UN policy on drugs



Mekong states sign on to UN policy on drugs

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Representatives participate in a conference in Phnom Penh yesterday in which Mekong region countries signed on to a new agreement emphasising community-based approaches to combating drugs. FACEBOOK

Mekong states sign on to UN policy on drugs

With the Kingdom in the middle of a controversial “war on drugs”, six Mekong countries agreed yesterday to adopt a regional drug policy that puts health care first, and mandates police and judicial cooperation.

Ministers and delegates from Cambodia, China, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar and Thailand met with representatives from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) over three days, culminating in yesterday’s agreement, billed as “a coordinated regional response to drug production, trafficking, and use”.

Jeremy Douglas, regional director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific for UNODC, explained that as the region integrates more, efforts to combat the effects of drugs must become more coordinated. The new regional policy will focus on health-based solutions, law enforcement cooperation to address porous borders and judicial cooperation.

But, he said during the conference, “Health needs to come first.”

Cambodia has long been criticised for the involuntary detention of drug users in “rehabilitation centres” that some describe as torturous and devoid of genuine treatment.

And despite assurances that the new policy would put health first, the president of Cambodia’s National Authority for Combating Drugs, Ke Kim Yan, glossed over health issues in his statements.

Instead, Kim Yan, who once suggested giving local authorities the power to unilaterally sentence drug users to involuntary detention, said three separate times that it was “especially important” to prevent trafficking.

In an interview following the conference, the UNODC’s Douglas acknowledged that Cambodia’s policies have often been “heavy-handed” and “regressive”, and said change would not come “overnight”.

“What we’ve done is we’ve quite successfully lobbied the government ... to agree to a collective approach, which is called community-based treatment,” Douglas said, adding that all the Mekong countries adopted the version of community treatment promoted by UNODC and the World Health Organization.

Noting that Cambodia is often strongly averse to any perceived outside interference, independent drug expert David Harding said: “It is an important step that Cambodia and these other countries are acknowledging these recommendations and the UNODC.”

But, Harding said he was wary of Cambodia’s motivations for joining the agreement. “I worry they may point to their cooperation with the UNODC as a way of legitimising their drug war.”

MOST VIEWED

  • First Khmer woman to pass out of West Point

    The life of a soldier certainly isn’t for everyone. The training is gruelling, the hours long and there’s no room for excuses. On top of that, soldiers must be ready to respond to sudden threats at a moment’s notice. Just ask Sithyka

  • Tourists urged not to skip trip

    The Ministry of Tourism has called on international tourists not to cancel trips to Cambodia, but urged them to adhere to several dos and don’ts when arriving in the Kingdom during the Covid-19 pandemic. The ministry released an eight-point instruction manual on Wednesday published

  • The taxman cometh – Cambodia’s capital gains tax casts the net on individual taxpayers

    In a country where only limited personal income tax existed, the new taxation law beginning January 1, 2021, will make taxpayers out of Cambodians, whether they are ready for it or not About two years ago, a little known amendment was made to Article 7 of the Law

  • Cambodian-American gets Star Trek treatment

    Kevin Ung, a Cambodian-American whose family escaped genocide during the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror, was recently selected from thousands of applicants to participate in the Television Academy Foundation’s inaugural 2020 Star Trek Command Training Programme, a course intended to give hands-on filmmaking experience

  • Cambodia seeks to be transport hub

    Cambodia is working on several fronts to modernise its transport infrastructure and services, concentrating on opening new international gates to relieve and balance traffic congestion at its borders, Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol said on Thursday. This is part of the Kingdom’

  • Deminers unearth ancient lion statue

    Cambodia Mine Action Centre (CMAC) director-general Heng Ratana told The Post on Tuesday that a statue of a lion was found by mine clearance experts while they were digging for a development project. It was sent to the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts last