Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Inmate drug testing launches

Inmate drug testing launches

Military police show evidence of a drug-smuggling operation in Trapaing Phlong Prison uncovered last year. Photo supplied
Military police show evidence of a drug-smuggling operation in Trapaing Phlong Prison uncovered last year. Photo supplied

Inmate drug testing launches

More than 4,000 inmates at Prey Sar prison have been tested for drugs in the week since testing began in what will soon be a nationwide effort, with 23 testing positive for methamphetamine, according to prisons officials.

The universal testing initiative comes amid a national war on drugs launched on January 1, and after the exposure last year of drug dealing networks operating out of prisons, and the establishment of a committee tasked with investigating drug trafficking on the inside.

Nouth Savna, spokesman and deputy director-general for the Ministry of Interior’s General Department of Prisons, said the testing was part of the push to “combat drugs across the country”, adding that the testing is still ongoing.

Meas Vyrith, secretary-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, said inmates at Prey Sar began getting tested last Monday, and that all inmates in the country will eventually be tested with a rapid-result urine test.

Savna said officials were still working to determine where the 23 inmates got their meth but said there are three ways that drugs can land in prisons: visitors, which he characterised as the most popular means of trafficking; throwing substances over the prisons’ fences; and prison guards smuggling them in. “Various stakeholders will convene to discuss how to go about designing a solution” for treatment and prevention of drug use among inmates, he said.

Vyrith maintained the inmates who tested positive for meth got the drugs from relatives who came to visit them.

“We are going to discuss with the General Department of Prisons on strictly controlling all the things [brought by visitors] before allowing people to bring them in or hand them over to inmates” he said.

On Friday, the General Department of Prisons issued new guidelines for finding and reporting contraband for prisons nationwide, Savna said. “[They] were very urgently made,” he said.

Since last year’s commitment to crack down on drug networks inside and outside of the country’s prisons, Savna said only a couple such networks have been discovered, and have been small in scale. “They are not systematic,” he said, though the committee tasked with investigating hasn’t issued a full report.

Yesterday, a taskforce at a prison in Kampong Thom found four mobile phones, which could be used to coordinate drug deliveries, he said. On Sunday, a guard found an unspecified amount of drugs buried in the ground in Correctional Centre 4 in Pursat, but “nobody came forward”, he added.

Just a couple of days ago, a woman visiting a prisoner in Kratie was caught trying to smuggle a “substantial” amount of meth in packets hidden inside a milk carton.

David Harding, an independent drug expert with years of experience working in Cambodia, said he wasn’t surprised to hear about the prevalence of drugs in the prison system, especially with the “massively overcrowded prisons” where officials often need to “beef up security”.

However, he said, the issue is not unique to Cambodia. “You find a culture of drugs in prisons across the globe,” he said, adding that Cambodia needed to start drug users into treatment rather than prisons.

MOST VIEWED

  • Prince Norodom Ranariddh passes away at 77

    Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the second son of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and former First Prime Minister of Cambodia, has passed away in France at the age of 77. “Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh has passed away this morning in France just after 9am Paris-time,”

  • Rise in planned flights lifts travel hopes

    Six airlines have applied to resume flights in December, while two others have put in for additional flights and routes, according to State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) head Mao Havannall on November 29. These account for 43 new weekly domestic and international flights in December, up 16

  • General’s gun smuggling ring busted

    The Military Police sent six military officers to court on November 22 to face prosecution for possession of 105 illegal rifles and arms smuggling, while investigators say they are still hunting down additional accomplices. Sao Sokha, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and commander of

  • Is Cambodia’s travel sector in for another cheerless holiday season?

    The travel and tourism sector was heaving back to life as borders started to reopen, promising a festive vibe for the holidays and New Year. But Omicron and other Covid-related issues are threatening to close the year on a bleak note ‘Seems [like] Covid-19 won’

  • Cambodia, Thailand to discuss border reopening

    Cambodian authorities from provinces along the Cambodia-Thailand border will meet with Thai counterparts to discuss reopening border checkpoints to facilitate travel, transfer of products and cross-border trade between the two countries. Banteay Meanchey provincial deputy governor Ly Sary said on November 22 that the provincial administration

  • Hun Sen: Manet to be candidate for prime minister

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has reaffirmed that his oldest son Hun Manet will be his successor as Prime Minister if he is elected. Speaking during the inauguration of a new sewage treatment facility in Preah Sihanouk province on December 2, Hun Sen said Manet will be