Sar Kheng: Forces must stamp out drugs

Phnom Penh: Minister of Interior Sar Kheng on Saturday urged local authorities to stamp out drug crime, something he said had now spread to some rural areas.

Speaking at a ground-breaking ceremony at the Udom Proeksa pagoda in Prey Veng province’s Kanh Chriech district on Saturday, Sar Kheng also called on people to report drug-related crime in their area to local authorities. For bigger cases, Sar Kheng encouraged people to report them through provincial authorities’ or his official Facebook pages.

“Please be more attentive to the issues of drugs. Many years ago it was not such a big issue, but now it has spread to some rural areas. You must act now. It’s very dangerous for the future of our children if they get addicted to drugs,” he said.

“If drug crimes take place in local areas, shout out loud immediately, don’t stay quiet. It has now reached Prey Veng . . . so authorities at commune, district and provincial levels must prepare strategies to eliminate the use of drugs and their distribution. Take action against offenders transparently and without exception,” he added.

Sar Kheng said the government has strived to combat drug crime, with authorities seizing some 600kg of drugs worth millions of dollars over the past two years.

Drugs, he said, could easily destroy the future of Cambodian youths if they were to become addicted.

“I suggest you do whatever you can to protect our places from drugs. If you see drug users or dealers, please report them to police. I also have my Facebook page. [You] can give me a shout [through my Facebook] page so the issue is known and can be dealt with immediately,” he said.

“In Phnom Penh, we are also clamping down on it at numerous places . . . but we cannot just bust places [without evidence] as suggested in some Facebook comments. We need to be certain of a crime before we can crack down on it, otherwise police would be held accountable to the law. A crackdown can’t be successful without enough information and evidence” he added.

Separately on Saturday, Siem Reap provincial police in conjunction with the Ministry of Interior’s anti-drug department raided a karaoke parlour in Siem Reap city’s Slakram commune and held 30 people for questioning.

Om Amara, the deputy provincial police chief in charge of drug crime, told on Sunday that police had seized evidence, including 21 packages of methamphetamine, nine ecstasy pills and other drug-related material. Police are preparing to send the case to the provincial court.

“We have questioned them and obtained their confessions, but we cannot conclude yet how many of them were drug users or dealers. We need to question them further. Police need to verify the facts first because we cannot believe everything the suspects said,” he said.

Soeung Sen Karuna, spokesman for rights group Adhoc, said that while he welcomed Sar Kheng’s appeal, he urged the government to take specific measures in enforcing the law.

“We are satisfied with the move, but our concern is that lower-level authorities will start taking action only after receiving an order from senior authorities. They should do it regularly. We have existing laws but local authorities will not enforce them until they receive an order.

“They just need to follow the law. The government should keep up constant monitoring or set up a special committee to monitor authorities at sub-national levels to determine if they have enforced the law and follow orders from senior authorities. We just need to check if they have followed and implemented what is stated in the law,” he said.