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Thousands more drug arrests

Anti-drug officials pose for a photograph after arresting three suspects in a drug bust in September in Phnom Penh. Photo supplied
Anti-drug officials pose for a photograph after arresting three suspects in a drug bust in September in Phnom Penh. Photo supplied

Thousands more drug arrests

About 5,000 people have been arrested for drug use and trafficking since July in the second phase of an ongoing controversial drug crackdown, bringing the total number of arrestees this year to almost 13,700 people.

According to the Interior Ministry, 13,691 people were arrested in 6,205 cases over the past nine months – more than 7,200 of them suspected traffickers, and almost 6,500 alleged users. More than 8,000 people were arrested in the first half of the year. The Anti-Drug Department also confiscated 68 cars, 1,624 motorbikes, 16 guns and more than 153kg of drugs, including methamphetamine, heroin, ketamine, cocaine and marijuana.

Rhona Smith, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia, last Wednesday warned of overcrowding in the Kingdom’s already-packed prisons. “This year the situation has deteriorated to dangerous levels,” she said.

However, Meas Vyrith, director of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, maintained the rehabilitation centres to which users were sent weren’t overcrowded, because some people were already released.

“The police will continue to hunt [drug offenders] down via the information provided by citizens. This is because some users are hiding . . . In the meantime, we’ll push them to get voluntary treatment,” he said.

Duch Piseth, Advocacy Director at the Cambodian Center for Human rights, said in an email that a holistic approach was needed to curb drug trafficking, rather than simply thousands of arrests.

“What the government should [do] is probably to take an educational and rehabilitation approach . . . However, it is legally imperative that those who [are] charge[d] with drug trafficking have access to legal representation, fair treatment in prison and fair trial rights.”

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