Asean Lawmakers Look for Regional Approach to Drug War

Cambodia will attempt to eliminate illegal drugs in the country by 2015 in a coordinated effort with other Asean countries, National Assembly President Heng Samrin said yesterday at a meeting in Phnom Penh with lawmakers from across Southeast Asia.

“The meeting will…reflect the common efforts of [the Asean In­ter-Parliamentary Assembly] in its fight against the drug menace in order to attain Asean’s vision—a drug-free Asean community by 2015,” Mr Heng Samrin said at the opening of the two-day gathering.

The latest reports on illicit drugs in Cambodia from the US and the UN both paint a grim picture, however.

“Levels of consumption, trafficking and production of dangerous drugs are all on the rise,” the US State Department said of Cambo­dia in a report released in March. “The situation has become more urgent, despite the government’s concerted efforts to crack down on drug trafficking and drug-manufacturing labs in recent years.”

Mr Heng Samrin said disharmony among Asean member states’ laws were hindering joint efforts on a regional scale.

Cheam Yeap, chairman of the Assembly’s commission on banking and finance, said the meeting was a chance to change this. He said the lawmakers would be getting a look at the Asean group’s first-ever report on how far efforts to harmonize their laws had come.

But a new draft drug law in Cam­bodia has some local NGOs worried. Leaked versions of the draft law propose up to two-year terms for arrested addicts in the country’s heavily criticized drug detention centers.

Keo Kim Dara, deputy secretary-general of Cambodia’s Nation­al Authority for Combating Drugs, said he expected to see the law sent to the Council of Ministers for review by the end of the year.

But even with the new law, Mr Kim Dara conceded that Cambo­dia was unlikely to eliminate drugs by 2015.

“The drug issue is very complex and it is not easy to eliminate,” he said.

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