On the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking in 2023, Cambodia prioritised the people under the theme of “People first: stop stigma and discrimination, strengthen prevention”.

The theme underscored the importance of citizens as central to drug policy formation, strategic planning and other measures.

Prime Minister Hun Sen fully endorsed this approach, stating on June 26: “This year’s theme aims to encourage local authorities and youth to lead the fight against drugs in their own communities.”

His words underlined the event’s role in increasing public awareness about the dangers of drug abuse and trafficking and illustrated the government’s staunch commitment to this cause.

“This year’s theme also aims to encourage the empowerment of local authorities and youth to take the lead in the fight against drugs in their local communities,” Hun Sen said.

In 2022, Cambodia’s anti-drug initiatives saw a 1.3 per cent increase in cracked drug crime cases, reaching a total of 6,390. These actions led to the seizure and incineration of approximately 15 tonnes of drugs and over 504 tonnes of precursor chemicals. The year also saw the arrest of 15,002 suspects during the International Day festivities held in Phnom Penh and other target provinces.

“In this spirit, in order to continue to strengthen and enhance the fight against drugs and to be in line with the global context, I would like to set a national theme for the year 2023 as primarily for the people. We must work together to strengthen the harmony in our communities in order to augment the anti-drug crusade,” urged the premier.

He called for stronger community cooperation, elimination of discrimination and stigma against drug addicts, and joint actions to crack down on local drug crimes.

Hun Sen also called on all Cambodian citizens to educate their children about the dangers of illegal drugs. He urged local authorities to consistently educate and disseminate information, aiming to reduce and eliminate discriminatory attitudes towards drug addicts and strengthen administrative measures in areas prone to drug offences.

He stressed the importance of law enforcement officers adhering strictly to professional ethics and laws, monitoring the import, distribution, and use of precursor chemicals, and improving the quality and reliability of treatment and rehabilitation services. He emphasised the need to enhance work capacity in line with the digital age.

Oddar Meanchey deputy governor Dy Rado shared how the province was tackling the drug problem, emphasising widespread public education on the adverse effects of drugs and rigorous implementation of the “safe village-commune” policy. He also highlighted the importance of collaborating with neighbouring Thailand on drug prevention and trafficking matters.

“In light of the local drug problem, both the people and the authorities at all levels need to work together to prevent this,” he said.

Rado encouraged all citizens, particularly the youth, to steer clear of drugs, thereby shielding themselves, their families and communities from the dire consequences of drug abuse and trafficking.