Government Proposes New Drug Rehabilitation Centers

As the government prepares to implement a new anti-drug campaign in the new year, officials announced proposals this week for new drug rehabilitation centers nationwide, aiming to provide improved detoxification and social services to recovering users.

Meas Vyrith, secretary-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, said the new plan would focus on nearly 10,000 drug users nationally who are not currently in rehabilitation, but need help.

The aim will be “to collect them, or to encourage them—not stigma—and just ask their family to support them to get the services and the community-based treatment of any center,” Mr. Vyrith said.

“The drug user is not in prison,” he said, but “if we let them stay outside [rehab centers], they will be the market for drug dealers.”

Mr. Vyrith said officials had yet to determine how many or where the centers would be built. Asked if Cambodia’s new strategy to combat drugs would include voluntary or compulsory rehabilitation, the latter of which is the current government standard, Mr. Vyrith said drug users “have many choices.”

In some cases, “the family of the drug user brings them,” he said. Others are sent by the court “when they are using drugs and arrested by law enforcement officers.”

“We never punish the drug user,” he said. “We consider the drug user to be the victim.”

The country currently has seven state-run and three private rehab centers, according to a post on the National Police’s website.

Choub Sok Chamreun, executive director of Khana, an NGO that supports drug treatment and HIV prevention programs, said the new campaign was a chance for the government to upgrade state rehabilitation services so they were more voluntary, effective and in line with international best practices that aim to reduce health risks for drugs users.

“We anticipate that if this plan comes into effect, it would be a good opportunity to see the quality and effectiveness of drug treatment,” Mr. Sok Chamreun said. “If it really comes into reality.”

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