Minister of Interior Sar Kheng on Thursday called on all religious leaders in Cambodia to instruct their followers to help raise awareness of drugs and prevent their spread amongst religious adherents.
Sar Keng was presiding over the opening ceremony of the 7th seminar on inter-religious belief dialogue for the strengthening of religious harmonisation in Cambodia, addressing the theme of “followers without drugs and respect for road traffic law”.
The seminar at Chatomuk Conference Hall was attended by more than 800 participants.
Sar Kheng said drugs caused many social issues in Cambodia and that problems were increasing, but relevant ministries of the Cambodian government were making efforts to resolve the issues and prevent the spread of drugs.
According to a Ministry of Health report on the treatment of drug addicts throughout the country, during the first six months of 2018, 3,231 drug addicts received treatment, of which 3,019 were male and 212 were female.
Sar Kheng appealed to all religions in Cambodia: “Do whatever [you can] to prevent drugs spreading to religious followers in each religion and those who respect and practice their belief such as monks and their followers.
“If our society still has many drug issues and [the issues] spread from cities to rural areas our people will suffer from it and other religious followers will not be able to avoid it either."
“As part of the mainstream [it is important] to broadcast the issues to the general populous in our society to prevent drugs or minimize [their use] … The crucial factor is to make people informed and understand the danger of drugs,” he said.
He added that a large number of prison inmates are drug dealers and users, causing overcrowding and associated problems in prisons. This, he said, leads to criticism of government ministries over prison overcrowding, an issue he said the ministry are working to resolve.
Pointing to Canada, Australia and some states of the US – countries that have passed laws legalising smoking, planting and selling cannabis in order to reduce the consumption and trafficking of drugs – he said the ministry will closely follow the issue of legalisation.
“What is the reason that those states decided so? We have to study it for the future, find out for a period of time why those countries implement such a law and what is the result, good or bad.”
Sar Kheng also promoted national unification, aimed at reducing gaps between the internal affairs of each religion in order to make them more allied, whilst respecting and complying with the policies of the Cambodian government.
He said the seminar would provide an opportunity for all participants to exchange ideas, discuss views and share experiences and, through measures appropriate to the evolution of the society, contribute to promoting harmonisation in the Kingdom’s religious sector.
Minister of Cults and Religions Him Chhem called for all religious leaders and followers to participate in educating their communities about drugs and urged them to help prevent the use of drugs.