Rise in Meth Use, Trafficking Spur Cross-Border Drug Plan

Faced with an ongoing rise in drug trafficking and use, especially of methamphetamines, Cambodia and the other five Greater Mekong Subregion countries have joined forces to try and stem the narcotics tide.

A cross-border agreement signed during a three-day meeting in Phnom Penh this week addresses gaps in a 1993 drug control policy between the countries, said Meas Vyrith, secretary-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD), on Wednesday.

Prevention and treatment, law enforcement, border management and judicial cooperation are some of the key areas that will be tackled, Mr. Vyrith said.

Cambodia and its neighbors, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand, along with China and Burma have all signed up to the agreement.

Jeremy Douglas, regional representative of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, said all six countries again reported a rise in meth use at the end of last year.

“Methamphetamine use is growing across the region almost exponentially. It is growing year on year,” Mr. Douglas said.

With young users of the drug on the rise, he said treatment and prevention programs needed to target the youth.

Cambodia was also among four countries where drug-making laboratories were found, Mr. Douglas said.

Law enforcement training supported by the U.N. drugs office will focus on identifying both drugs and ingredients, as well as working with countries to more effectively crack down on trafficking rings, he said.

“One of the big common problems is the fact that it is transnational organized crime taking advantage of this large market and high demand,” he said. “The countries that have poor borders…they are able to basically cross and do their business to meet the demand.”

David Harding, an independent consultant, welcomed the cross-border trafficking efforts, but said addiction treatment across the region was problematic.

“As regards to drug treatment, as far as I’m aware, none of the countries in the Mekong Subregion really have drug treatment programs—government-run drug treatment programs—that are actually based on scientific principles,” he said. “So I find it difficult to understand what they could actually share with each other that could actually be effective.”

(Additional reporting by Janelle Retka)

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