AUTHORITIES pressed on with a controversial trial of a little-known detoxification drug Wednesday, with police continuing to sweep the streets for drug users and one official claiming an early success.
Police in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district apprehended two people believed to be heroin users as part of the dragnet Wednesday, said Sin Vath, deputy chief of the district’s crime office. But the pair were due to be released, he said, because they were judged to be too unhealthy to participate in the trial.
“We wanted to bring them to take the drug detoxification trial,” he said. “Instead we will release them.”
It follows last week’s arrests of at least 17 people who were subsequently enrolled in a controversial drug treatment trial Sunday involving a Vietnamese-manufactured detoxification drug called Bong Sen.
Criticism from rights groups
Human rights groups have slammed the trial as a sham and decried the arrests, and UN and US embassy officials have expressed concern over the news. Authorities, however, insist the drug users have volunteered for the trial.
One official with the National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD), which is overseeing the trial, is claiming an early success, even though the scheme is only a few days old.
The official, who asked to remain anonymous because he was not permitted to speak with the media, said many of the drug users in the trial have “forgotten” about using heroin.
“They do not like eating rice, as they are heroin users, but 70 percent of them are getting hungry when it is mealtime now,” said the official, who is directly involved in administering the trial. “They are getting much better.”
Rights groups, however, are calling the trial an outrage.
“The NACD and the government of Cambodia must immediately stop the trial,” Joe Amon, the director of the health and human rights division of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
“The illegal importation and coercive tactics used to put drug users on a wholly unknown and unproven cure for drug dependency is not merely unethical, but a violation of the most sacrosanct of principles of medical ethics.”
The drug’s Vietnamese manufacturers, Fataco Ban Tre, say the orally administered product provides a “gentle detox” over seven to 10 days.
Company officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday.