Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday called on authorities to step up efforts to eliminate “booming” drug-trafficking in Cambodia following a closed-door conversation with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on the sidelines of a recent Asean summit.
Hun Sen, however, was quick to distance himself from the tactics employed by his counterpart, whose call for extra-judicial killings to end the “drugs menace” has led to more than 3,000 deaths.
He instead pointed to a campaign against drugs in neighboring Thailand in the early 2000s led by then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
“I would take this opportunity to call on the authorities at all levels and armed forces to ramp up efforts to eliminate drug trafficking, which is widespread from one country to another country,” he said.
“Each country takes similar action in order to crack down on drugs spreading from country to country. Each country takes similar actions, but for us life sentences in prison are enough for those who have committed serious offenses,” he added.
“We will not use the measures of some countries that allowed the brutal killing.”
Meas Vyrith, secretary general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, said drug trafficking had increased in recent years and a lack of education on the effects of drugs combined with poor law enforcement had compounded the issue.
“Now we recognize that the drug problem has spread from cities to remote areas due to the solicitation from criminal groups … because of low awareness of the drugs’ consequences,” he said.
He added that the authorities planned a five-pronged approach to addressing the problem: reducing demand; reducing supply; preventing dealers reaching users; increasing rehabilitation programs; and increased law enforcement and inter-agency cooperation.
Meas Ny, a political analyst, was skeptical.
“We have seen the authority punish and sentence small-time people, but the big and powerful people, we have not seen them crackdown or sentence them,” he said.
Last year, the government registered a 128 percent rise in drug offenses, while the U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime identifies Cambodia as a key transportation route for methamphetamines and heroin.