Min Chetra, 20, left his hometown many years ago to find construction work in other provinces and Phnom Penh. At some point in 2021, while working as a construction worker, Chetra started using drugs.

When his parents found out that he was a drug addict, they took him back to his hometown of Pnov I commune and village in Prey Veng province’s Sithor Kandal district in late 2021. Then, on July 4, 2022, Chetra beat his mother to death with a 5 kg hammer at their home.

Sithor Kandal district police chief Seng Savon said that, according to the suspect’s relatives, a few years ago Chetra left the village to do construction work and he often changed his place of work.

Savon added that during Chetra’s stay home his parents apparently took good care of him. He didn’t leave the house much, but his family began to notice that he seemed to be suffering from some kind of delusions. He was talking to himself and he wasn’t acting like he did before he went away.

Chetra’s parents then took him to the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital for a medical check-up and he was placed on some kind of medication at the beginning of this year, said Savon.

According to police chief Savon, just before 11am on July 4 Chetra was seen lying in a hammock under the house alone, while Hem Camrey, 53, his mother, was cooking. Without warning, Chetra got up from the hammock and hit his mother in the head with a 5 kg hammer, killing her on the spot.

Neighbours who witnessed the act reported it to Pnov I commune police who arrived and arrested Chetra about 20 minutes after the incident occurred. Police tested Chetra’s urine for the presence of illegal drugs but none were found, leading them to believe that Chetra may suffer from some mental illness besides drug addiction.

Savon said that, regarding the law, if his relatives claim that the suspect is a mentally ill person they could prove this to the police by showing them the doctor’s prescription and medication, but they couldn’t find it at this time it was with the suspect’s father and no one knew where he was currently.

Savon said that after the arrest, the suspect told the authorities that he was sleeping in his hammock at the time and somehow he seems to have lost his memory for awhile. Only after he hit his mother, he regained consciousness and he was then saddened by his mother’s death.

Sam Phallika, a neurologist at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital, explained to The Post that drug use can affect people’s mental health, but in many cases drug users have pre-existing mental health problems that are exacerbated by drug use. The impact on the user varies according to what drugs they are taking and how much or for how long.

She said drug users sometimes experience memory loss or go through erratic mood changes and changes in their behaviour.

“Thus, the higher the dose and the longer the duration of use, the more the patient is affected. This makes them reliant on drugs and they have to use them in order to be able to work as usual,” she said.

She explained that the treatment would depend on the symptoms that appear, but the most important thing was to stop using drugs. However, quitting drugs was a difficult thing to do and addicts need to be highly committed with the support of those around them and if the addict is showing signs of severe delirium or mental illness and seeing or hearing things that aren’t real then they need to be treated with psychiatric medications.

Kim Chilin, an intern at the Cambodian Youth Network Association, said that youth drug users spent money to buy these toxins to get high, which damages their health and social relationships or relationships with their own families. Drug users were putting aside society and losing their families’ honour and by law they face imprisonment.

He added that when youth use drugs, they lose their self-control, which leads to social insecurity and costs money from the national budget, because if he is imprisoned the state must take care of him.

“I understand that a lot of young people are discouraged because they lack counselling. Therefore, they should consult with their peers or find an organization that can help them and do not put themselves in a situation where they are isolated and can no longer cope with their problems,” he said.

Minister of Interior Sar Kheng said at the celebration of the International Day Against Drug Abuse on June 26 at the Koh Pich Convention and Exhibition Centre that when there was the Covid-19 crisis or a crisis like the war in Ukraine, the authorities in some countries often forget to do the work of fighting drugs, but Cambodia had not forgotten and paid even more attention.

Sar Kheng said that during the Covid-19 outbreaks in 2020 and 2021, the police investigated over 16,000 drug cases, confiscating nearly ten tonnes of drugs and arresting 21,566 suspects.

“We continue to be affected by this crisis – as in the past, as well as recently – drug gangs have not only tried to smuggle drugs into or through Cambodia, but they have begun trying to use Cambodian territory as a drug production site,” he said.