Interior Minister Sar Kheng said that a specific mechanism will be put in place by the National Drug Control Authority (NACD), relevant institutions and the police to closely monitor the importation of certain drugs. foreign chemicals into Cambodia after police seized more than 2,300 kg of drugs and up to 84 tonnes of chemicals used in their production in Kampong Speu province earlier this month.
Sar Kheng made the remarks at the inauguration of the country’s first juvenile rehabilitation center in Barkou commune of Kandal Stung district of Kandal province on December 28.
He said that although Cambodia has brought Covid-19 under control, illegal drugs remain a “chronic disease” that will only get worse in the future if people don’t work hard to deal with it.
“With this drug problem, we will set up a specific mechanism with the NACD that deals with the relevant ministries and police who issue licenses [to import chemicals]. This will allow them to monitor from start to finish the importation of chemicals from abroad so that they can prevent the production of drugs in our country,” he said.
Sar Kheng recalled that earlier this month, police seized more than 2,300 kg of drugs in two operations in Oral district, Kampong Speu province. A company involved in the case had received a license from the ministry and the police to import raw materials and chemicals to manufacture many types of fertilizers there. And a second raid in Phnom Penh recently also yielded over 300 kg of synthetic drugs.
He explained that after importing the chemicals, the company did not manufacture fertilizers, but instead used them as ingredients in a lab making the synthetic drug ketamine.
Synthetic drugs are a broad category that includes any drug synthesized through chemical reactions in a laboratory, as opposed to plant-based drugs like marijuana or drugs refined from plants like cocaine and heroin. The most widely used illegal synthetic drugs today are methamphetamines, also known as ice cream, and MDMA or ecstasy, among others.
“The chemicals were imported here to be used in a lab process with another chemical precursor to make the finished product, so it’s semi-finished. But when it was imported into our country, it was in the form of drug components rather than the form of the drug itself. They take some of this substance, take some of this substance and combine it into an illegal drug and then export it to the outside market,” he said.
Citing an unidentified foreign source, Sar Kheng said the import of chemicals to produce the drug was not controlled by the police at all.
“I do not mention the name [of the foreigner] but he is not a Khmer national. He suggested that it is imported without any controls. We must not close our eyes. We have to enforce the law because we are also a member of the UN. We have also become members of international drug control organizations and have ratified international treaties which have now become Cambodian laws, so we must abide by them,” he said.
“If drug producers are caught exporting from Cambodia, it would tarnish our reputation and give Cambodia the image of a drug trafficker. And if it’s distributed nationwide, it’s dangerous and there’s no magic cure for addiction. when you smoke it [and become addicted] there is no medicine to cure your addiction,” he said.
Sar Kheng added that currently nearly 40,000 inmates are being held in prisons and correctional centers across the country and 51% of them are there for drug trafficking, while a good portion of the 49% remaining are drug addicts, which opens the prospect of greater availability of drugs a very great risk for Cambodian society.
Am Sam Ath, deputy director of rights group Licadho, said on December 28 that drugs destroy human resources and society. The importation, production and trafficking of drugs remain a concern and there is a need for specific mechanisms to combat it.
“Effective law enforcement for drug importers, dealers and traffickers with transparency and fairness is the most important thing. Even if the offenders are wealthy or powerful, the law must be enforced without exception,” he said, adding that the import of chemicals must be restricted and controlled by working with neighboring countries or in the region.