New Penalties For Convicted Drug Dealers

UN anti-drug officials said Friday they will recommend that the government increase fines and prison sentences for convicted drug traffickers.

The government should issue subdecrees that will enable officials to better clamp down on money laundering and the sales of confiscated goods, UN officials said at a press conference at the Ministry of Interior. A central office to fight drug trafficking should also be established, officials said.

The set of recommendations will be sent to the government by the end of the year, according to UN Crime Prevention and Drug Control legal expert Bernard Leroy. The recommendations could then be considered by the Council of Ministers.

Minister of Interior Sar Kheng asked the UN earlier this year to consult with the government about strengthening Cambodia’s 1996 anti-drug law.

UN officials said they wanted to see more offenders sent to prison. Currently, many convicted drug traffickers are only given a fine by judges, even though the drug law states that serious offenders should be imprisoned.

The law allows for a 10 to 20 year sentence for a second-grade offense and life imprisonment for a first-grade offense, according to Municipal Court Judge Mong Mony Chariya. But what offenses constitute a first, second or third-grade offense needs to be better defined, he said.

Last week, US President George W Bush announced that Cambodia has been removed from the list of countries the US considers “major” locations for the production or transporting of illegal drugs.

“These decisions are sometimes based…on political considerations,” Bengt Juhlin, head of the UN Crime Prevention and Drug Control’s Phnom Penh office, said Friday. “In the last year or so, not a lot of drugs from Southeast Asia have been reaching the US via Cambodia. But this doesn’t mean that the drug situation in Cambodia has become less serious.”

Brigadier General Lour Ramin, who is National Authority for Combating Drugs permanent deputy secretary-general, said recent years have revealed weak points in the law regarding penalties.

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