About 200 Royal Cambodian Armed Forces soldiers tested negative for drugs in Kompong Thom province this week, part of the government’s anti-drug offensive that will soon see another 300 troops tested.
Drug testing of military personnel stationed at the province’s RCAF headquarters began on Monday, said Thin Samkol, chief of RCAF’s provincial health unit.
“Our aim is to avoid any drugs in our military,” Lieutenant Colonel Samkol said. “We want them to be good soldiers.”
The RCAF testing is part of a nationwide crackdown on drugs that began January 1, and has so far netted more than 5,000 for drug-related crimes, including a man arrested near the Laos border on Sunday with nearly 4 kg of crystal methamphetamine, according to officials.
Meanwhile, the U.N.’s high commissioner for human rights on Wednesday said many swept up in the crackdown are being unjustly detained.
Commenting on Cambodia’s crackdown in Geneva while addressing the U.N.’s Human Rights Council, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said: “Recent crackdowns on drug users and traffickers, and continued roundups of people living or working on the streets, have meant thousands of people are now detained in inadequate conditions, many without benefit of due process.”
Defense Ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat last month said the military was considering a plan to drug-test soldiers nationwide, but on Wednesday said no guidelines had been issued.
In Kompong Thom, drug testing was being conducted to protect the military’s reputation and avoid potential dangers, Lt. Col. Samkol said.
“Soldiers have guns and they might not know who is their boss or subordinate” when using drugs, he said.
All soldiers in the province—from commanders to the rank and file—would be tested and sent to rehabilitation centers if they were found to have illegal drugs in their system, Lt. Col. Samkol said.
Repeat users would be subject to disciplinary action at the discretion of their superiors, he added.
National Police spokesman Kirth Chantharith said last month that there was no national plan to test police officers for drugs, but provincial police departments were welcome to test their officers. Police chiefs in Kampot, Pailin and Preah Sihanouk provinces said they were already testing their officers.