As Cambodia celebrated UN Anti-Drugs Day on June 26 by torching a huge pile of confiscated
narcotics at Olympic Stadium, drug experts and police officials expressed concern
about "worsening" trends in the Kingdom's drug trade.
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In his speech, Sar Kheng, minister of interior and chairman of the National Authority
on Combating Drugs (NACD), said illegal drugs remain a major problem and are leading
to dire consequences for the nation's youth. He called for collaboration from all
government institutions as well as parents and teachers to fight increasing drug
"Using drugs causes crime, violence, and seriously affects social security,"
said Kheng in his statement. "They destroy health and lead to HIV/AIDS infections."
According to the NACD report for the first three months of 2007, drug arrests have
dropped from 112 to 49 over the same time last year, 72 drug offenders have been
arrested and 92,614 pills and 6.25 kg of heroin had been confiscated. The NACD has
reported the first decrease in drug abuse since 1999.
But experts and government officials believe the number of drug users, producers
and dealers is growing. Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mop Sarin said a rise in intravenous
drug was spreading HIV, and Police Chief Touch Naruth said the capital remains a
major transit point for heroin and methamphetamines throughout Southeast Asia.
"It's a worsening situation. The trend is that drug abuse is increasing,"
said Lars Pedersen, the new head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in Phnom Penh.
"Now the biggest problem remains the [meth] tablets-they clearly dominate the
market, but ice is increasing and that's a worry."
Pedersen, who took over the UNODC post in April, cited improvements in the internal
structure of the NACD and increased cohesiveness between local police and drug enforcement
agencies. He said that lack of knowledge about the adverse effects of drugs is a
pressing problem for enforcement efforts.
"You must remember that Cambodia's drug problem is primarily a youth problem
in the sense that 80 percent of drug abusers are between 10 and 25," Pedersen
said on June 28. "So, it's an overwhelmingly youth-related problem. It's also
a methamphetamine problem, but that's secondary."
Naruth said that since 2006, 58 drug cases have been prosecuted, leading to 92 detentions,
of which 30 were foreigners. The 2007 NACD report stated Cambodia has 5,187 drug
addicts across 23 cities and provinces.
"I've observed that drug trafficking and use has decreased but that drug use
has spread into more cities and provinces. Previously some areas that never used
drugs are now using them," said Lour Ramin, secretary-general at NACD. "We
have noted a significant increase in the confiscation of chemicals for producing
drugs compared to the last six months of 2006."
On March 31 authorities raided a large-scale illegal drug laboratory in Kampong Speu
province and confiscated two tons of "pre-cursor" chemicals used for the
manufacture of methamphetamine. On June 22, police arrested a two-star general, Chum
Tong Heng, of conspiring to produce drugs at the site. The unprecedented bust has
changed assessments about Cambodia's drug scene, experts told the Post.
"There is a trend towards increased diversification. More drugs are coming into
the country and they're of newer varieties. The drug situation in Cambodia has taken
a more serious development with the seizure of the meth laboratory," said Pedersen.
"Ice entered in 2005 and is an increasing problem.
The meth lab in Kampong Speu was producing the first stage of ice, but we don't know
if it was being moved onwards for processing into tablets or what. Some people have
started rethinking the origin of ice seizures that were previously believed to have
come from Myanmar."
According to Ramin, the NACD is seeking financial and technical support from UNODC
and other international partners to destroy the chemicals confiscated in Kampong
"We have already prepared and are just waiting for technical experts from overseas
to the process of the destroying the chemicals," Ramin said.