‘Suspicious’ Students Can Be Drug Tested, Education Minister Says

Schools that suspect a pupil might be using illegal drugs can report their concerns to authorities, who will carry out any necessary testing, the education minister said on Tuesday, clarifying that there was no wide-scale plan to introduce a national student testing policy.

The government launched a nationwide drug crackdown at the beginning of the year, and some local media outlets reported that students, like members of the armed forces, would be systematically tested.

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A student takes the national high school completion exam at Sisowath High School in Phnom Penh on Monday last year. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Speaking after the opening of the Annual Education Congress, Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron told reporters that spot-testing for drugs would be another tool in the government’s six-month campaign, which has thus far mostly caught low-level dealers and users.

“The Education Ministry has not yet done testing on students, but has announced a measure where if there is a suspicious case, it requires the school to make a report and then the ministry will conduct testing,” he said.

The minister did not go into detail about how the spot-testing would work or who would carry out the drug testing. He also did not say what would happen to students who tested positive, or whether any cases had already been reported by schools.

Education Ministry spokesman Ros Salin could not be reached for further comment on Tuesday.

Mr. Choun Naron said the ministry had also been carrying out anti-drug awareness campaigns, and had even included the message in the school curriculum.

Countering drug use among Cambodian youth is a central aim of the government drug crackdown, which was supposedly inspired by an increase in drug use and is meant to include rehabilitation services for users.

In the first month of the campaign, 2,773 people, 267 of whom were women, were arrested, while last month, a further 2,053 arrests were made, said Meas Vyrith, secretary-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, on Tuesday.

As of on Tuesday, a total of 5,767 people had been arrested, he added.

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