Officials are introducing a color code in Battambang province to indicate the gravity of a commune’s drug problem, based on a system from the 1980s that was used to identify areas occupied by rebel forces, officials said Thursday.
Police at the Interior Ministry’s anti-drug department are organizing local officials to grade communes in the province based on whether villagers are planting cannabis, smuggling narcotics, using drugs or are simply unaware of their danger, said Moek Dara, the department’s director.
A commune designated with the color white will be considered to have no drug problems, gray will indicate some problems and black will denote serious problems.
“I am using the war strategy of the 1980s against resistance armed forces to fight against drugs,” Moek Dara explained.
“We asked all commune members to study their communes first and finally they will name their communes as white, gray or black.”
Once this is complete, the information will be publicly announced, he said.
“If we call them a black commune…they will try to cooperate and stop the people who use drugs and all will become white communes.”
The scheme aims to increase public involvement in combating drugs, and will enable villagers to inform commune councilors about local offenders, Moek Dara said.
“I am sure this method will be efficient as we did it in wartime and we achieved success,” he said.
Moek Dara said he met in February with officials from Battambang, Banteay Meanchey and Pursat provinces, as well as Pailin municipality, and asked them to color-code their communes and then report back to him.
But he added that he is focusing primarily on Battambang, and if the project proves successful there, he will recommend that it be expanded nationwide.
The scheme will take on a competitive edge, and communes labeled black will be encouraged to get upgraded, said Battambang Provincial Governor Prach Chan.
“When we have good cooperation [from the public], our measures will be successful,” he said.
Officials in Banteay Meanchey are being informed about the color scheme, but communes have not yet been labeled, Deputy Provincial Police Chief Chheang Son said.
“This is a good way to effectively crack down on drugs,” he said. “When we have assessed villages’ drug problems we can monitor them well.”
Chea Vannath, president of the Center for Social Development, voiced concern about the scheme.
“They should be careful,” she said. “If people are painted white, gray and black it will damage people’s reputation and their village.”