New legislation will introduce harsher punishments for drug traffickers and tighten regulations for prescription drug use if passed by Cabinet of Ministers in March, officials say
Drug users inject heroin in Phnom Penh's Boeung Trabek neighbourhood last month.
DRUG traffickers will receive harsher punishments for possessing smaller quantities of illegal substances if a new draft law is introduced in March, officials have told the Post.
Under the proposed law, drafted by the National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD) at the Ministry of Interior, life imprisonment will be given to those in possession of 80 grams of heroin. Currently, life terms are only handed down to those in possession of at least 100 grams.
"The new law is more detailed. We have given greater consideration to guilt, punishment and the amount of drugs [necessary for punishment]," Lour Ramin, permanent vice chairman of NACD told the Post Sunday.
The draft, written with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) as advisers, will also strive to comply with international drug control laws including those regarding prescription drugs available over the counter in Cambodia, officials said.
Lars Pedersen, officer in charge and project coordinator for the UNODC in Cambodia, described the new legislation as having a much "tighter control" on drug trafficking across Cambodia's borders in accordance with neighboring countries.
"The drug situation in Cambodia has escalated over the years with the use of illicit drugs increasing and drug trafficking becoming a major concern for the Cambodian government. It [the drug problem] has reached a level where the government has needed to address the problem," he told the Post Monday.
Pedersen said the spike in drug trafficking was a result of traffickers taking advantage of overlapping licences of imported drugs, which was creating an abundance of prescription medicine easily available over the counter. Both were a result of current control legislation being weak.
Health issues absent
Graham Shaw, NACD adviser at UNODC, said Monday he was concerned the new law focused more on law enforcement rather than creating an understanding of drug use.
"One concern we have with the current draft is that it does not make room for health services for people who use medically approved drugs.
The other major concern is the grey area in drug enforcement," he said, adding that those found in possession of narcotics are often taken to drug treatment centres without any legal basis.