New Draft Law Aims To Toughen Stance on Drugs

Seizure of drug dealers’ assets and longer prison sentences for those found smuggling heroin are among the provisions in the new draft law on tackling drug trafficking, the National Authority for Com­bating Drugs announced Tuesday.

NACD Deputy Secretary-General Moek Dara likened the fight against drugs to mowing a lawn, noting that if the roots of the problem—the financial resources of dealers and smugglers—are not removed, then the problem will continue to grow.

“To kill the grass, we have to kill the roots,” Moek Dara said on the sidelines of an NACD meeting to announce the finalization of the draft law, adding that the confiscated assets of drug criminals may then be used to further fund the government’s fight against drug syndicates.

The new law also lowers the bar on heroin smugglers receiving life sentences, Moek Dara continued.

“Currently the law punishes traffickers to life sentences for smuggling 100 grams of heroin upward. Now the new draft law punishes traffickers with a life sentence for 80 grams up,” he said.

So far in 2008, 394 people have been arrested for drug offenses in Cambodia, NACD Secretary-Gen­eral Lour Ramin said at the meeting. According to NACD figures for 2007, 290 suspects were arrested for the entire year of 2007.

While the number of drug offenders arrested is up compared to last year, the amount of drugs seized by police has dropped, said Lour Ramin, who put the trend down to two large drug busts in Phnom Penh and Kompong Speu province last year, which, he maintained, had curtailed the drug supply.

According to NACD statistics distributed at Tuesday’s meeting, seizures by police and customs of heroin in 2008 amounted to just 5.28 kg, as compared to almost 11 kg in 2007. The number of amphetamine pills confiscated also dropped this year to almost 170,000, which compares to almost 421,000 in 2007. And while authorities found almost 7 kg of crystal methamphetamine in 2007, this year they found less than 2 kg.

Commenting on the new, tougher anti-narcotics draft law, which must be sent to Interior Minister Sar Kheng before being submitted to the Council of Ministers for approval, Lour Ramin said it was a necessary weapon to “scare” those involved in drug crimes.

“When the country gets a more serious law, the traffickers will be scared of the law,” he said.

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