New Anti-Drug Law Expected To Up Penalties

Officials on Thursday unveiled a new draft anti-drug law that they say will improve their ability to combat the drug trade by stiffening penalties and closing loopholes in the law currently in force.

The new, 68-page draft law was completed Tuesday, Lars Pedersen of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime said during the Thursday mor­ning conference.

The gathering of about 50 in Phnom Penh was designed to give in­terested parties a chance to help revise the draft before it is submitted to a panel of secretaries of state on Dec 1, and then to the Council of Ministers on Dec 9.

From there, the law could go to the National Assembly and Senate for approval if it doesn’t need further revisions, Pedersen said.

The government’s main goal is to heighten punishments for drug crimes, said Sim Sarath, chief of the Ministry of Interior immigration police and a member of the drafting committee.

The committee also aims to strengthen the ability of authorities to seize property purchased with drug money, and to address loopholes and inconsistencies that are in prior anti-drug laws, Sim Sarath said.

“We want to make the new law more accurate and more firm and stronger so it can be used as a tool for officials to punish drug offenders,” said Major-General Moek Dara, Interior Ministry anti-drug police chief and chairman of the law’s drafting committee.

One aim of the law was to get rid of a provision in the current anti-drug law, which was enacted in 1997, that gives judges substantive sentencing leeway to choose either imprisonment or fines, Moek Dara said.

“Opportunistic people made cor­ruption with this law,” he said of the 1997 law.

The new legislation also outlaws selling legal pharmaceuticals without a prescription, requires se­cure legal drug storage, and re­quires regulation and licensing of pharmacies, according to Eduara Hildalgo, of the UNODC. It also in­cludes measures to ensure rights to treatment at licensed drug rehabilitation centers, he said.

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