Vague proposals for new legislation, counseling for drug abusers and inter-ministerial cooperation define the National Authority for Combating Drugs’ new five-year drug control plan, which appears to be a road map for heightened donor support, officials said Monday.
“If the plan is approved by the government, it would be the first five-year plan,” said General Khieu Sopheak, Interior Ministry spokesman and the National Authority for Combating Drugs’ deputy secretary general. “It would show the international community that we have our own program.”
Drug officials, NGOs and government ministries solidified the 2004 to 2009 draft plan at the MiCasa Hotel on Friday.
Khieu Sopheak said the plan could help draw the international funding that local agencies need to control drugs.
The government’s approximately $250,000 annual drug budget is barely enough to support activities nationwide, he said, adding that about 40 percent of that covers administrative costs.
But Tea Phally, UN Office of Drug Control and Crime Prevention project officer, said, even with a plan, government agencies responsible for drug control are far from achieving success. Com- bating drugs is “something linked directly to the structure of the whole country,” Tea Phally said. “Each sector, all the ministries as a whole, have a long way to go.”
In March 2000, the US State Department listed Cambodia as a major player in the international narcotics trade and one of six countries whose government was not doing enough to prevent drug production and trafficking.
In 2001, Em Sam An was removed from his post as NACD secretary-general following the arrest of an aide on drug trafficking charges. The same year, NACD Colonel Sok Sophak, a Phnom Penh Municipal Court clerk, was charged with trafficking.
Khieu Sopheak said the court system must be better monitored to ensure that drug traffickers are appropriately charged, tried and convicted. He dismissed the possibility that government officials could influence the court.
Prime Minister Hun Sen in October ordered the release of five customs officials arrested on drug charges. Senior court officials said the order was illegal.
Khieu Sopheak defended the premier’s motion and rejected the possibility of future interference.
“I don’t think the prime minister will intervene into any case,” he said, adding that the customs officials were guilty of lax inspections, not drug trafficking.
While the plan proposes lofty measures—passing a money laundering law and eradicating illicit marijuana crops—it also includes simple strategies for combating drugs.
“Consider using the current Cambodian law to cope with drug related crimes,” one point suggests.
The NACD should approve the draft plan at its next meeting in early 2004, Khieu Sopheak said. To be put into action, the plan must then be approved by the Cabinet.