Arresting Dealers Remains a Challenge, Anti-Drug Chief Says

From private establishments that permit drug use to police officers involved in the drug trade tipping off dealers, landing major traffickers is proving harder than ever, the nation’s top anti-drug czar said on Tuesday.

At the start of the third month of a six-month anti-drug campaign, the government continues to face challenges in catching major players, or “the big fish,” as Ke Kim Yan, chairman of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, called them last month.

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Ke Kim Yan, chairman of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, speaks last month during a meeting of senior officials about the government’s anti-drug campaign at the Interior Ministry in February in Phnom Penh. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

On Tuesday, General Kim Yan, the former commander-in-chief of the military, said police were struggling to net big-time traffickers as they received help from crooked officers.

“When we have a meeting to set the date to crack down” on drug crimes, the dealers and corrupt police elude arrest, Gen. Kim Yan said.

“While we take strong action, they still dare to traffic drugs,” he told an audience of senior officials, university students and media industry representatives at the Interior Ministry’s headquarters in Phnom Penh.

The government launched a multipronged anti-drug crackdown on January 1, aiming to arrest drug dealers and expand rehabilitation services. As of Sunday, more than 5,000 people had been arrested for drug-related crimes so far this year, according to National Police figures.

But Gen. Kim Yan said arrests alone would not effectively reduce drug crime. Anti-drug education and public awareness, the focus of the meeting, was necessary, he said.

Another priority is to clamp down on drug hot spots, such as karaoke parlors, night clubs, and rental houses and rooms, Gen. Kim Yan said.

He cited Trapaing Chhouk village, a notorious hotbed of criminal activity, as a recent success. Authorities demolished about 100 drug dens there.

If police took action at other private establishments, the majority of drug crimes could be stopped, Gen. Kim Yan said.

“If we succeed to crack down on those places, I believe almost 70 percent of drug offenses will be reduced.”

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