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National Authority Claims Drug Use Declining

Illicit drug use has decreased over the past four years, officials said Tuesday, following crackdowns on manufacturing facilities inside the country.

“If our law enforcement agencies had not suppressed in time manufacturing locations, hundreds of thousands of people inside and outside Cambodia could have suffered,” Ke Kim Yan, head of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, said on Tuesday, opening an Asean conference on drugs.

The number of illicit drug users decreased from more than 7,000 in 2005 to nearly 6,000 last year, according to report released by the authority during the meeting.

In the first half of 2009, the authority investigated 140 drug-related cases, leading to 287 arrests and the confiscation of more than 70,000 methamphetamine tablets, more than 1,000 grams of methamphetamine called ice, and more than 10,000 liters of saffron-rich oils, which are used in methamphetamine production, the report says.

Despite these numbers, officials from non-governmental organizations working with drug addicts say the number of users is actually on the rise.

Chhoeung Reut, a coordinator for the group Korsang, which works with drug users, said there are between 50 to 100 new users every three months.

“Illicit drug use is increasing at the moment because of the availability of imported drugs such as ‘yama’ [methamphetamine pills], ice and heroine,” he said.

“These days, we also see between 10 and 20 new users every month, in addition to the more than 1,000 drug users we are working with,” said Pin Sokum, drug program coordinator at Friends, which works with street children addicted to drugs.

Many drugs come to Cambodia via the Golden Triangle, an opium-producing region in Southeast Asia, though local drug producers also produce some. Cambodia has 14 private and state-owned treatment centers, but the national drug authority said these often only separate addicts from the drugs temporarily.