The Council of Ministers yesterday passed a sub-decree on the creation and function of a new national drug rehabilitation center, planned for Preah Sihanouk province.
Plans for the center were announced last September, but the project is waiting for the more than $2 million of funding that Vietnam has pledged to provide, Major General Moek Dara, secretary-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, said yesterday. Yesterday’s sub-decree green-lights the government’s plans, so that it can break ground on the project once the funds are made available. Gen Dara was unable to say when funds were expected.
The proposed center is to be located on 20 hectares of land Stung Hav district’s Keo Phos village, Gen Dara said. Gen Dara has previously said the center will have a capacity of 2,000.
“The national rehabilitation center would become the biggest ever in the country,” he said, adding that there are currently 15 other treatment centers nationwide.
Cambodia’s drug treatment centers have come under fire in the past for forming what human rights NGos say is an institutionalized system of arbitrary detention, violence and sexual abuse.
Gen Dara yesterday said that the Preah Sihanouk treatment center would offer “non-coercive” treatment, but would hold addicts if they were considered a risk.
“If the drug addicted person refuses to receive the voluntary treatment and is a danger to themselves or to society… But we will hold them at the center or send them to the court,” he said.
Graham Shaw, Technical Officer for HIV/AIDS, Drug Dependence and Harm Reduction, at the World Health Organisation, said that although people who are severely dependent on drugs can often be unwilling to volunteer for treatment, forced treatment can be given without putting people in centers.
“It can be done at a referral hospital, for example,” he said. “International evidence continues to show that locking people in centers is not cost effective and does not produce the health outcomes sought.”