Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday called on monks to take a leading role in stamping out drugs in Cambodia, while again vowing not to take the same path as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, whose bloody war on drugs has claimed thousands of lives over the past nine months.
Speaking about the government’s recent push to tackle drug trafficking and abuse, Mr. Hun Sen distanced himself from Mr. Duterte’s highly controversial campaign, which he said has taken between 6,000 and 7,000 lives.
“But in Cambodia, we will not authorize this,” the premier said at the inauguration of a prayer temple at Wat Prek Pra in Phnom Penh’s Chbar Ampov district.
Instead, Mr. Hun Sen called upon the Buddhist clergy to encourage the public to stay away from narcotics.
“Venerable Buddhist monks, whenever the venerables go out for preaching at various religious events, you shall not forget to preach ‘do not use drugs,’” he instructed an audience of monks.
Mr. Hun Sen pointed out that the monks themselves were also susceptible to the temptation of drugs. Crime within the monkhood appears to have escalated in recent years, with cases of monks being arrested for drug dealing and possession becoming relatively common.
“The drug issue is sometimes found at pagodas, and sometimes there are monks involved,” the prime minister said.
Authorities have been toughening up on drugs recently, announcing a six-month anti-drug campaign that started last month and includes increased law enforcement, rehabilitation, anti-trafficking efforts at borders and education.
Khim Son, head of the Mohanikaya sect in Phnom Penh, said monks were already doing their best to turn the country’s youth away from drugs by preaching on radio and television and visiting schools in the provinces to spread the word.
A meeting involving chief monks from all 149 Buddhist temples in Phnom Penh has been scheduled for February 20 to disseminate further information about tackling drug abuse, he added.
“As requested by the prime minister, we will try our best to contribute to the anti-drug campaign and we can preach to parents to pay attention to educating their children as well,” Khim Son said.
“At the annual Buddhist monk meeting, we also ordered the provincial, district and pagoda chief monks to turn their attention to combating drugs, especially by sending Buddhist monks to public schools located near temples to educate young students about the impact of using drugs on their health and society.”