Sar Sokha, outgoing Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport secretary of state, has renewed calls for all relevant institutions to work together to warn of the dangers of drugs and tackle the problem of human trafficking in Cambodia.

He issued the request during a recent meeting with the leadership of the ministry’s physical education and sport department and a team tasked with combating human and drug trafficking.

He noted that Cambodia is no different from other countries around the world, especially in the ASEAN region, and had fallen victim to the illicit drug trade.

“Some drugs are produced here, and the Kingdom is increasingly being used as a point of transit by international gangs. It is worth noting that most large drug seizures were destined for export. This is a large problem, and one that requires us to cooperate and work together to resolve,” he said.

He added that although Cambodia has centres for the treatment and rehabilitation of drug addicts, the number of these centres – and the investment in them – remains limited. This is why close attention must be paid to the problem. The authorities regard addicts as victims, but are cracking down hard on dealers and traffickers, just as they do in Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam.

He believed that drug awareness and education must start from pre-school and be repeated throughout children’s time at school, so the younger generation will learn of the evils of drugs and stay away from them.

“We are aware that illegal drugs are being brought into our country, to the extent that certain drugs can be bought for as little as 20,000 riel, or just $5. Easy access to drugs could lead to many health problems, so we must all stay focused on warning people about them, especially children,” he said.

He noted that while the US and the WHO may have raised concerns about the Kingdom’s efforts to combat human trafficking and money laundering, the FATF had removed Cambodia from its money laundering grey list.

“We should not focus on the ‘rankings’ or opinions of any one nation or organisation, but must strive to protect our children from any threats they may face,” he said.

He added to date, the Ministry of Interior has received over 1,700 complaints of kidnappings or human trafficking.

The National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD) recently reported that in 2022, law enforcement officers had clamped down on 6,390 drug cases, arresting 15,002 people and seizing almost 15 tonnes of illegal substances.