Ministers Approve Draft to Toughen Drug Laws

The Council of Ministers on Fri­day ap­proved a draft to amend the country’s drug control law to im­pose stiffer punishments on drug of­­fenders, ac­cording to a statement from the Council of Min­is­ters.

The proposed amendments, which require the approval of the Na­tional Assembly and Senate, detail specific penalties according to the amount and type of drugs seized, said Lour Ramin, secretary-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, on Sunday.

Such detailed guidelines for punishment do not exist under the country’s current drug control law.

“In the anti-drug law, there are 111 articles, but we have adjusted 49 articles…for the principle of penalties only,” Lour Ramin said.

The Council of Ministers statement, which said the draft intended to impose “heavier punishment and fines to those involved in drug dealing,” did not elaborate on the new guidelines.

But the council ordered the Assembly to immediately review and adopt the draft.

“In the past some drug smugglers were arrested…[with] only two or three pills, and some were [found] with 1,000 pills but both were accused of drug smuggling” which carries the same penalty, said Iv Thearith, deputy chief of Phnom Penh’s anti-drug unit. “It was not fair.”

He added: “I am happy the anti-drug laws are clear on the punishment of drug dealers.”

Under Article 37 of the 1996 Law on Control of Drugs, a person could be imprisoned for five years to 15 years and fined up to $12,500 for producing, distributing, trans­por­ting or selling illicit drugs.

Sok Sam Oeun, president of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said the changes could help re­duce the possibility of corruption. Pre­­viously the law said courts could either put offenders in jail or levy fines.

But Sok Sam Oeun did not think sentences should be in­creased for drug of­fenders.

The problem lies instead with law enforcement officials and their ability to apprehend criminals, he said.

(Additional reporting by Yvonne Lee)


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