More drugs are now coming into Cambodia over the Lao border than the Thai border, according to UN drug monitors.
Although there has been no conclusive study, “the information clearly indicates that the Lao border has now overtaken the Thai border” in terms of drug smuggling, said Bengt Juhlin, country director of the UN Office of Drug Control and Crime Prevention.
Both trafficking and use of drugs are increasing in Cambodia, Juhlin said on Wednesday, the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
The border with Laos is simply more porous, Juhlin said. “The law enforcement agencies in Thailand have become more effective at dealing with [drug trafficking],” he said.
“If you travel down the Mekong in Laos into Stung Treng [province], the border control is basically nonexistent.”
But while methamphetamine use has skyrocketed in rural areas along the Thai border, few Cambodians near the Lao border use the drugs.
“Eventually, there will be use,” Juhlin said. “Trafficking contaminates. The couriers are paid partly in cash, partly in drugs, so they become hooked themselves and start pushing it to people they know.”
In observance of the anti-drug holiday, parades were held all over the country. In Pailin town, one of the worst-hit by the increase in drug use, about 500 people marched around town with posters, local officials said.
“In Pailin it is easy to get drugs. They are used by youths and workers,” said Keut Sothea, provincial deputy governor. “Many people here don’t understand the effects of drugs, so they are in danger.”
Juhlin said many youths believe methamphetamines—known as “yaba”—are just “powerful vitamins” and don’t have negative effects.
In Phnom Penh, where another parade was held, Prime Minister Hun Sen singled out youths, street children and border workers as groups whose drug use is on the rise.
“[Drug use] is a new disease in our society, and it is spreading,” he said. “As with AIDS, our people are victims.”