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Support, Don’t Punish, People Who Use Drug

On 26 June, civil society organisations are calling for more humane and effective drug policies that prioritise the welfare of people who use drugs, and their families and communities.

The International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking falls on 26 June every year and is a day for governments to celebrate their war on drugs. Some governments mark the occasion by executing drug offenders and others call for more arrests and detention of drug users, or show the world their efforts to combat drugs by destroying seized illicit drugs.

Today is also the United Nations’ International Day in Support of Victims of Torture and torture is a crime under the international law which Cambodia has been party to since 1992. Under this law, people who commit torture cannot justify it at anytime or anywhere. Non-torture becomes a customary international law that is also biding on every member of the international community.

Treatment of drug users living with HIV

KHANA, which is part of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, is one of many civil society organisations working in the field of HIV prevention in relation to drug use raising the issue of supporting, not punishing, people who use drugs.

One major issue is ensuring that when people who use drugs are arrested, they are provided with the treatment they need and are not tortured. Many human rights reports highlight cruel and inhuman treatments against drug users in Cambodia.

In Cambodia, 78 of 79 parliamentarians passed the 2011 Drug Control Law. There was little debate on the new approach towards the treatment of addicts before the law was passed. The law was drafted with technical support from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Drugs law in Cambodia

During the assembly floor in 2011, Ke Kim Yan, chairman of the national authority for combating drugs, was quoted by local news as saying that the 2011 drug control law replaces the January 1997 law. He said current drug crimes are more serious and the 1997 law had too light punishment of perpetrators.

According to the UNODC, nearly 200 million people are using illicit drugs such as cocaine, cannabis, hallucinogens, opiates and sedative hypnotics worldwide. “In Cambodia, according to site estimation conducted by NCHADS and NACD and supported by KHANA and UNODC, the preliminary finding shows that there are approximately 13,000 to 28,000 people who use drug (PWUD) and approximately 1,300 people in Phnom Penh, who inject drug (PWID). However, this number is not officially published,” said Mr. So Kimhai, KHANA Drop-In Center Manager.

“In addition to this, both PWUD and PWID are amongst the most at risk group to HIV and AIDS. HIV prevalence is 4.4% and 25% respectively and their access to both health and non-health services are still the barriers,” said Mr. Choub Sok Chamreun, KHANA Deputy-Director of Operations.

By Mey Sovannara

SEAP TS-HUB
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