Thais, Cambodians Launch Anti-Drug Push Effort

Thailand and the UN an­nounced plans Thursday to help bolster Cambodia’s battered drug-control program in a first step toward a bilateral effort to curb drug smuggling along the Thai-Cambodian border.

Cambodia’s anti-drug force is facing a virtual meltdown as its police chief deals with suspension and heads toward a possible murder investigation.

Top on the list is a planned joint police effort between Koh Kong province and Thailand’s Trat province in order to control what Thai drug officials called an increase in drug trafficking in the area. The governor of Trat will form a special commission to coordinate the police efforts, Thai drug officials said.

“Drugs are a global problem,” said Payont Pantsri, secretary-general of Thailand’s Narcotics Control Board. “We cannot fight it alone.”

The pact is the result of four days of bilateral meetings be­tween top Cambodian and Thai anti-drug officials, sponsored by the UN Drug Control Pro­gram.

Thailand also promised laboratory equipment to help police identify the origin point of seized drugs and train customs officials.

Cambodia is one of 28 nations the US government identifies as a problem country for drug trafficking or production.

Police and drug officials consider Cambodia to be a minor transshipment point for heroin as well as a marijuana producer. More than 50 tons of Cambodia-grown marijuana have been seized from seafaring vessels in ports around the world since 1995, said Math Ly Roun Skadavy, deputy secretary-general for Cambodia’s Na­tional Authority to Combat drugs.

Thailand recently announced that it had eradicated illegal farms of marijuana, an experience from which Cambodian anti-drug officials said they hope to benefit.

The growing popularity and domestic production of amphetamines is also a problem, officials said.

Thai officials also offered to teach Cambodians how to detect money laundering, which they said could be related to the country’s drug trade and its loose banking laws, a statement said.

Thailand also plans to support training programs for Cambodian authorities interested in launching a drug abuse prevention program for the country’s youth.

“Prevention is the most important thing, better than a cure,” said Sorasit Sangprasert, deputy secretary-general of the Thai Narcotics Control Board.

The meeting was seen as a good first step for Cambodia’s waning drug-control efforts, but a senior anti-drug official warned that the government must now follow through on its own.

“Our police—the anti-narcotics police—doesn’t work,” Skadavy said, adding because of corruption, few traffickers are arrested and virtually none are tried. “It has to be replaced if the government wants to be serious with all these traffickers. We have to do something to help the young children on the streets of Cam­bodia—they don’t understand about the dangers of drugs.”

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