Prime Minister Hun Sen has laid out plans for a new campaign to combat illegal drugs this year in light of the persistence of traffickers and users despite previous government efforts to stamp out drug-related activities.

According to Plan No 01 signed on February 19, drug offences have not declined across the Kingdom in line with the suspensions of activities related to investment, trade, industry, agriculture, services and culture on account of the pandemic.

In particular, drugs like methamphetamine (also known as ‘ice’), MDMA (‘ecstasy’) and ketamine had proliferated widely. They are easily produced and concealed for transport, it said, noting that the market for these products was expansive.

“The situation here is such that criminals surreptitiously smuggle drugs via Cambodia for the purpose of exporting them to other countries as well as serving the domestic market,” Hun Sen said.

During last year’s campaign, police operations resulted in the detention of 21,566 suspects in connection with 10,461 cases. Total seizures of illegal drugs amounted to 3,875kg – as well as 4,425kg of related chemicals, equipment and other evidence. Seventy-seven cases were deemed major drug trafficking crimes.

Hun Sen noted that this year’s efforts constitute the government’s sixth anti-drug campaign, and he encouraged police to step up all enforcement-related activities against the importation, distribution and use of illegal drugs, especially monitoring targets prone to drug offences.

Authorities must accelerate procedures to process evidence and property connected with offences, including freezing financial assets, and use seized items in support of their enforcement activities. Police are also instructed to investigate financial transactions connected with drug-related activities in order to combat money laundering and the financing of organised crime or terrorism.

Hun Sen also urged police to continue to improve measures for treatment, rehabilitation and re-integration of drug offenders by setting up clear leadership and coordination mechanisms at the commune level. They should work to enhance the capacities and quality of community-based services, prioritising communes most susceptible to drug-related activities.

Authorities should proceed with the construction of national drug rehabilitation and treatment centres for voluntary and court-ordered patient services as well as additional mobile facilities able to serve throughout the capital and provinces.

Such public centres would foster an environment of high standards for effective treatment conducive to promoting improvements in the quality of services provided by private centres and those run by partner organisations, according to the plan.

Heng Sayhong, Battambang provincial coordinator for rights group Licadho, observed that provincial police had worked hard to crack down on drug crimes throughout the province and at the border, and the efforts were a good sign.

“Recently, I have seen a significant decrease in drug offences. There are not so many now as in previous years. We can thank the police in our province for this progress,” he said.