Amnesty: Cambodia's war on drugs led to systemic human rights abuses

PHNOM PENH: Cambodia's three-year-long "war on drugs" campaign has led to a litany of human rights abuses and the overcrowding of prisons and detention centres, human rights watchdog Amnesty International has announced in a new report.

Released during the weekend, the report titled "Substance Abuses" documents the government's anti-drug crackdown since January 2017, which Amnesty says has failed to reduce drug use and related harms in the country.

"Cambodia's 'war on drugs' is an unmitigated disaster - it rests upon systematic human rights abuses and has created a bounty of opportunities for corrupt and poorly-paid officials in the justice system while doing nothing for public health and safety," Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty's regional director, said in a statement.

The South-East Asian country has long been a transit nation for methamphetamine and other illicit substances, with crystal meth among the most abused drugs.

Overcrowded prisons and compulsory "rehabilitation" centres have become packed beyond capacity as authorities raid drug use hotspots and arrest and detain people, often without convictions, the report said.

Cambodian officials have claimed to treat drug users as "victims" who will be given access to treatment while coming down forcefully on street-level dealers.

But in every case documented by Amnesty, people who faced trial were convicted, not given access to a lawyer, and those sent to detention centres were held involuntarily.

The report said while voluntary, evidence-based treatment options remain limited in the country.

Based on 51 interviews, mostly with people who used drugs, in November and December 2019, the report also notes allegations of torture, sexual violence and deaths in custody. - dpa
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Amnesty , Cambodia , War On Drugs


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