The number of drug users in state-run rehabilitation centres more than doubled between 2016 and 2017 under a nationwide crackdown on drugs that has strained the Kingdom’s limited treatment facilities.
According to the Ministry of Social Affairs’ year-end report, more than 8,700 drug users were sent to Cambodia’s seven state-run rehabilitation centres last year – up from roughly 3,400 in 2016. The figures do not include the more than 1,300 drug users who were sent to the national drug rehabilitation centre in Preah Sihanouk.
Din Borey, the ministry’s director of rehabilitation, said the anti-drug campaign is causing crowded conditions at the state’s compulsory rehab centres like Phnom Penh’s Orkas Knhom (“My Chance”) facility, which currently holds 1,800 patients.
“When the number of people is very high, the treatment is more limited,” said Borey, who added that 2017 and 2016 had been record-breaking years for patient numbers.
Read more: Is Cambodia’s war on drugs working?
Meas Sovann, executive director of the Drug Addict Relief Association of Cambodia, said he supports a tougher stance on drugs but said forcing people into state-run treatment centres usually isn’t effective.
“I believe using armed force cannot be successful,” Sovann said. “There are very few successes. [The centres] lack technical treatment and experts.”
The ministry also counted 406 registered orphanages nationwide. In total, more than 26,100 children live in care facilities such as orphanages, pagodas and group homes, the report said, though studies suggest even higher figures.
The ministry also noted the creation of more than 1,600 associations for the elderly under a national strategy to roll out such groups in every commune in the country.