Drug traffickers in Battambang province are increasingly using children to smuggle drugs to their clients, leaving authorities baffled about how to deal with those arrested, police and human rights groups said.
So Sam An, provincial deputy police chief, said police arrest between 15 to 30 underage drug users and child drug smugglers everyday—usually caught with amphetamines.
Most of those arrested are between the ages of 8 and 13, he said, adding that police often release them after detaining them for a day of “education.”
“We don’t know where to take them to,” he said. “They won’t stop after one day of education.”
So Sam An said it is difficult to question underage suspects since they often can’t reveal the identities of the traffickers who pay them.
“It is harder because they were cheated and did not care to remember who pays them,” he said.
Yim Menh Ly, an official from the Battambang branch of local rights group Adhoc, said drug cases against drug traffickers that rely on the testimony of children often fail to hold up in court.
“The court and police decide whatever they want. They take money and release the suspects for not having enough evidence from the kids,” he said. “It is very serious and requires strong and serious measures and willingness from the police and courts to stop it.”
So Sam An said Battambang police are proposing to build an education and skills center to rehabilitate children who are arrested. The center, which would be funded by police, would take in youths for at least three months, he said.
Earlier this month, police said that a separate drug treatment and rehabilitation center is scheduled to open in early April in Battambang province.