Cambodia’s premier Hun Sen, launched his own anti-drugs campaign in 2017, inspired by the controversial war on drugs waged by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. According to the Cambodian government, the campaign aims to reduce drug use and the related harm it causes. The campaign also includes arresting people who use drugs as part of its strategy.
Using far less deadly tactics than in the Philippines, the crackdown was still rather aggressive in the kingdom. Back in March, Sar Kheng, Cambodia’s Interior Minister called for legal action against all “drug addicts and dealers in small-scale drug use and distribution cases.”
Nevertheless, the campaign has proven to be effective. In 2017, Cambodian police managed to make more than 17,700 drug-related arrests. This number was a whopping 80 percent increase compared to the previous year before Cambodia’s war on drugs.
However, a Cambodian youth group has revealed that the problem still persists after conducting a survey on children’s exposure to drugs in communities.
Volunteers from the group, Good Neighbours Cambodia (GNC) interviewed 283 children aged between 13 and 18 in Phnom Penh and the provinces of Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Kratie and Mondulkiri just last year and revealed disheartening details.
The results of the survey found that 92 percent of respondents said they are aware of issues surrounding drugs, and 80 percent said they have seen drug use and trafficking in the communities they live in. The results also showed that 72 percent of the children surveyed said they are afraid of being introduced, persuaded or forced to use drugs by offenders.
“Drugs are a major obstacle to the development of communities, children and youths. Intervention from the government, police and teachers is most necessary,” Rin Norngkea, head of the volunteer youth group was quoted as saying.
Four percent of the children in the survey said they were introduced to drug use, while three percent said they have used drugs. However, there remains the possibility that some of the children were not willing to disclose whether or not they were introduced to, or have used drugs. This may especially be the case following Cambodia’s war on drugs.