Drug Users Arrested in Raid Sent to Rehab

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday charged just 11 of the 88 people arrested on Friday during a sweeping raid of a drug-riddled ghetto in Sen Sok district’s Toek Thla commune, sending the remaining 77 to the city’s Orkas Knhom drug rehabilitation center, police said.

The arrests were made when about 100 police officers swarmed the narrow alleys feeding into Trapaing Chhouk village to catch drug dealers and flush out the hordes of crystal methamphetamine users holed up in the shanties inside.

“The court decided to send 77 people to the Orkas Knhom center, while the rest were charged with drug trafficking,” said deputy municipal police chief Born Sam Ath.

Keo Socheat, the deputy prosecutor in charge of the case, said that he could not comment in detail because authorities were still investigating.

“We decided to send some of them to the rehabilitation center and some we sent to the investigating judge for further questioning,” he said. “But right now, I’m in the middle of doing it, so I can’t talk to you.”

Residents in and around Trapaing Chhouk have long disputed the efficacy of police raids, which are carried out regularly but result in few high-level arrests and only minor drug seizures. Those arrested, residents say, often return to using or selling drugs.

On Monday, reporters found that the illicit trade in Trapaing Chhouk was already back to normal.

However, Khieu Saman, director of the Interior Ministry’s anti-drug trafficking department, said authorities were bringing the situation under control.

“We have a plan to clear the drug problem from this area,” he said, declining to elaborate.

Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for rights group Licadho, said the poor track record of the Orkas Knhom center, where drug addicts have reportedly been tortured, was reason enough to worry about the plan.

“I think that we should not send them without paying attention to them,” he said. “We will continue to observe this case.”

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