Government to Continue Drug Crackdown With Nearly $1M Budget

Prime Minister Hun Sen has authorized a six-month extension of the government’s anti-drug campaign, an anti-drug authority official said on Thursday.

The campaign’s second phase will run to the end of the year, and the Interior Ministry has allocated a $1 million budget to fund anti-drug education, drug treatment, equipment and bonuses for anti-drug police, said Meas Vyrith, secretary-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs.

Ke Kimyan, head of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, speaks at a meeting formally announcing the government’s new anti-drug campaign last year in Phnom Penh. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

General Vyrith said he didn’t have details about how the money would be spent. Spokesmen for the Interior Ministry and the National Police could not be reached.

Gen. Vyrith claimed the initial six-month crackdown had improved overall security and public order, and said the government would push for increased involvement from local authorities during the second phase.

“The local commune and district officials…need to not leave the anti-drug work to the national-level officials,” he said.

As of Thursday, more than 10,000 people had been arrested for drug-related crimes since January 1, surpassing the approximately 9,800 people arrested for those crimes in all of last year.

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said people throughout the country, especially youth, continued to be concerned about drugs.

If the CNRP was in power, Mr. Sovann said, the party would promote education, judicial reform, anti-corruption measures, and work to relocate authorities responsible for addressing drug crimes.

The police “arrest the drug criminals to send them to the court and then the court releases them,” he said.

“What is going on, we don’t know.”

As in other nations, Cambodia’s war on drugs was “likely to result in countless harms,” said Marie Nougier, senior research and communications officer at the International Drug Policy Consortium, in an email.

“Since January, this has already resulted in a surge in people being incarcerated for drug offences” in Cambodia, leading to overcrowded prisons and health concerns, Ms. Nougier said.

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