US: No Progress Likely Against Illegal Drugs Efforts

The US’ annual report on the worldwide drug trade presents a damning picture of Cambodia, de­­scribing au­thorities’ attempts to control drug trade and production as “doomed to failure” in a climate of corruption and im­punity.

The US State Department’s In­ter­national Narcotics Control Stra­tegy report, released Satur­day, says, “the government recognizes that its counter-narcotics efforts are spotty and often ineffective.”

“Enforcement efforts have not targeted major traffickers and their organizations,” the report continues.

A dearth of police training and resources, combined with widespread corruption, mean that Cam­bodia’s mushrooming meth­am­phet­a­mine consumption, large-scale marijuana production and role as conduit for regionally produced he­roin are set to continue un­checked.

While few Cambodian-produced narcotics end up in the US, the report expresses concern that loose border controls make Cam­bo­dian sea- and airports easy transit points for drugs bound for Eu­rope, Africa and Australia.

Heroin and marijuana regularly enter and exit through Phnom Penh’s river port and the maritime ports of Sihanoukville, Koh Kong and Kampot, the report states. Narcotics are believed to be transited to foreign destinations through Phnom Penh In­ter­na­tional Airport due to “lax customs and immigration controls.” “Ru­dimentary” controls at Siem Reap’s airport also pose a potential drug trafficking problem.

Khieu Sopheak, deputy secretary-general of the National Au­thor­ity for Combating Drugs, said on Tuesday he had not yet had the opportunity to read the re­port. But he did express frustration over such pointed criticism from a government which takes very few steps to assist the control of drugs in Cambodia.

“The US only provides us with indirect assistance,” Khieu So­pheak said. “Four years ago, they gave [the NACD] some technical equipment, but they didn’t teach us how to use it. They show green grass to a hungry horse, but they don’t allow it to eat.”

“If the US offers us constructive criticism, then we accept it,” he continued. “But if they just criticize us from a distance and do not give us direct assistance, then we do not accept it.”

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