The Drug Problem in Cambodia
Cambodia is a country where poverty, drug use and health problems are significant. Drug use, drug production and trafficking and drug-related health problems are very high and production levels contribute to the global drug supply. Problems related to drugs affect a large number of citizens of this developing country.
Individuals who use illicit drugs are at risk of serious health issues, including HIV which is reported to affect up to 35 per cent of injecting drug users in Cambodia. Poverty, abuse, unemployment, loss of homes and existing health problems all contribute to the growing rates of drug abuse. To combat this increasing and devastating problem, the Cambodian government pursues an anti-drug policy, especially in its 11 state-run drug treatment centers.
Drug Treatment Centers
People who use drugs in Cambodia face serious and devastating problems as a result of their drug use. Treatment is typically unavailable or cost prohibitive outside of the government run centers. Desperate families and individuals may commit addicts to the center as a last resort. However, the majority of addicts in the centers are arrested and detained in the centers as an attempt to stop their addiction. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, fewer than 2 per cent of people in the centers are there voluntarily. Addicts in these centers have no access to a lawyer and they have no right of appeal against their detention.
Sadly, within the centers, physical abuse, violence, sexual abuse including rape, and acts of torture are all too common. The centers employ a program of drug boot camp which aims to punish people for their addiction and to punish the drugs out of their body. Reports of electric shocks, whippings, forced labor and military-style drills have come from some of the ex-inmates at the detention center.
One highly controversial and widely criticized program that has been used in conjunction with the drug treatment centers is the herbal formula Bong Sen. Bong Sen is reportedly a cure for drug addiction which is administered to individuals over a period of 7 days. In the Cambodian treatment centers, Bong Sen has been administered to people by force and without their consent.
Bong Sen 60076-1/fulltext) is reportedly a traditional herbal extract from the lotus plant that is successful at stopping addiction to opiates and other drugs. It is supposed to cut cravings and provides a gentle detoxification with minimal side effects. There is very little known about the medicine and its effectiveness, despite being used across Viet Nam. The drug has not undergone inspection or administrative protocols to clear it for use in Cambodia which raises human rights concerns regarding the drug. Additionally, the individuals who have been forced to take the drug have been released back into the community without any support or follow up to determine the success of the drug. There is no information regarding interactions,
Human Rights Violations
In Cambodia, drug addiction is considered a self-inflicted condition that is the result of moral failing or character flaw. As such, addicts are regularly rounded up and detained in unsanitary and harsh conditions in detention centers where they have no access to legal counsel or medically appropriate treatment. Children and adults are made to perform unpaid hard labor and are at high risk of being the victim of violence and abuse. They are humiliated, given food that is rancid and infested with insects, made to perform exercises to sweat out the drugs, chained up and degraded. Sadly, the majority of addicts who are detained and then released back into their community resume their drug addiction.
Detaining someone under these conditions and permitting serious acts of violence and torture would be for the purpose of deterring someone from using drugs. But drug addiction is a disease that requires appropriate treatment, understanding and care. Most addicts will not respond well to these kinds of treatment.