Saturday, June 27, 2009

Address at the “International Anti-Drugs’ Day”

Phnom Penh, 26 June 2009

Your Venerable Monks,
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen!

Today, it is my pleasure to participate in this important ceremony to commemorate the International Anti-Drugs’ Day. Taking this opportunity, I would like to praise the National Anti-Drug Authority and Phnom Penh’s Anti-Drug Committee for jointly organizing this important event.

As the global trend of drug production, trafficking, and abuse have evolved and continue to cause countless tragedies and social crises, the UN General Assembly in 1987 decided to observe 26 June as the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking to raise awareness among human beings, especially youths, about the danger posed by drugs and provide some practical recommendations to lead a clean life, steering clear of drugs.

In this spirit, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has come up with anti-drug campaigns and slogans every year. This is the last and third year for “Do drugs control your life?” campaign, which is accompanied by “your life, your community, no place for drugs”.

The drug problem is indeed a serious global issue. Drugs have caused a series of negative consequences in all countries, whether small or large scale. Global trend of drug production, trafficking and abuse have been evolving notably, especially over recent years.

In particular, Cambodia is not a drug production base but the last country to suffer from drug abuse compared to other regional countries. Prior to 1990s, drug production, trafficking and abuse do not exist in Cambodian soil. However, after the 1993 general election, due to open market, drug problem constantly and worryingly changes, especially in recent years.

Cambodia used to suffer from the accusation of planting and exporting cannabis, when international mafia, capitalizing on our lack of law and instability, and low awareness among the people, induced our farmers to plant cannabis and export overseas, which has severely damaged the country’s reputation. Moreover, while the Royal Government is fighting hard to eliminate cannabis and locked in the rehabilitation of economic infrastructures aimed at integrating into the region, the criminals take the opportunity to traffic in drugs, especially they even attempted to use Cambodia as their discreet production ground. However, these attempts have been spoiled timely by our law enforcement units.

Also, drug abuse in Cambodia has become a major concern over recent years. According to the United Nations and some NGOs, it was estimated that around 46,300 people had become drug victims. In the case this figure is reliable, and the number of drug users continue to increase, this represents a great loss and danger for Cambodia for today and tomorrow. Daily spending on illegal drugs, leave alone drug-related crime, thievery, security issues, social unrest, violence and other social services, represent a vast loss if each one pays US$ 3 per day for illegal drugs, that means US$140,000 per day or US$ 50 million per year.

At the same time, we also know that injecting drug is also being practiced in our country, and what is the most concerning issue is that, among injecting drug users (IDUs) are found to be infected with HIV/Aids. This practice is very effective for transmitting HIV through needles sharing or unprotected sexual behaviors under the influence of drugs. To address these issues, if we do not have in place the timely preventive intervention measures, the second wave of HIV/AIDS pandemic might occur in Cambodia. Although we have made tireless efforts and used a lot of resources to successfully reduce HIV/Aids infection rate from 3% in 1997 to 0.9% at the present, however experience from other countries and the world has proven that the possibility of transmitting HIV/AIDS among injecting drug users is as high as 50% or even higher just in one year. Therefore, all institutions concerned and civil societies must jointly take appropriate and timely actions aiming at combating the widespread of HIV/AIDS as well as other harm related to drug abuse, in particular drawing on good international experience for intervention.

Linking to this concern, I would like to take this opportunity to try to elaborate the topic titled “Do drugs control your life?”; the meaning of this question applied not only to the drug-addicts, however the true meaning is also applied to all general public, including the physical and legal entity, all employers and employees despite being not using or exposed directly to drug because we cannot withdraw ourselves or avoid the responsibility and being affected by the existence of drugs in our community or our employees or family being engaged with drugs. Thus for all of us to avoid being controlled by drugs we must cooperate to make our lives and community drug-free.

Drugs would threaten and severely devastate societies all the time, if we fail to take appropriate measures. Furthermore, fighting drug use is a complicated task, which is connected with all sectors. To address the matter, it requires the participation and active cooperation from concerned competent institutions, civil societies, private sectors, families and every physical person. The success in fighting drug use is to make our lives and communities free of drugs. To achieve the hard duty, I would like to take this opportunity to give suggestion to all competent agencies, arm forces, civil societies, private sectors and compatriots as follows:

1. All relevant agencies must crack down and severely punish drug producers, smugglers and distributors aiming to completely eliminate drug production, smuggling, distribution and usage at your own locality and community, particularly at hotels, guest houses, pubs and amusement places.
2. Strictly monitor the import-export of all chemical substances, especially substances which could be used for producing illegal drugs. In the name of legal enforcement officials you should respect the law and code of ethics; not to be involved with any mistake and need not be tolerant with any competent forces who use their duties to commit offense or irrational activities. Indeed, those people should strongly be punished according to the law.
3. Pay high attention in taking care of drugs users, who are agreed to undergo treatment rather be considered as criminals; help them and their families to live far from drugs, encourage them to stay in rehabilitation centers or pagodas for education. Set up treatment and rehabilitation services for all drug users. At the same time, we must draw on good international experiences related to the treatment and rehabilitation of drug users; and reducing all drugs related dangers which can be applied in Cambodia.
4. Regarding to the dissemination of education, I think that monks have the great ability to educate, instruct and give mental treatment to all people comprehensively. Therefore, monks could jointly and effectively provide education on the prevention and treatment of drug addicts without discrimination. At the same time, teachers also have the important role to play in educating and instilling the sense of self confidence for students so that they can clearly understand the impact of drug use and assisting them in making better decision as well as helping them to establish peer-to-peer support teams in schools or to use the scout group to educate them about the drugs. Besides, parents and families also have the compulsory and significant roles and obligations in taking care and educating children to get away from the use of drugs.

Regarding this issue, I would like to take the opportunity to inform every parent and guardian that although we have been fully occupied in making business to support the family, still we should not fail to think about our children, leaving them behind, because they are the most valuable asset in the world. We have to educate them to learn how to refuse the use of drugs and keep themselves away from the drug-related issues. We have to educate our children to be aware of the value of human being and lives. We have to provide love, affection and caring in order to instill them to become well-behaved citizen with strong health. At the same time, I would also like to appeal to male and female students that we are now living in an age of modernization; therefore, you have to learn how to take advantage from the development of technology and modernization in order to transform yourselves to be responsive, dynamic, considerate citizens with potentials for families and society.

Please do not waste time on useless things and don’t spend the most valuable time to experiment drugs even once and please don’t believe in the persuasion of friends or individuals who said that it is the energetic drinks to eliminate stress by not recognizing or buying by yourself from the pharmacy store. I would like to inform you that if you love yourself, your parents you have to distance yourself from drugs, to be responsible for yourselves, your friends, and to recommend each other about the danger of drug use as well as refusing the use of all kinds of drugs.

I would like to take this opportunity to appreciate and thank all institutions, civil society and the private sector for having actively participated according to the 6 points of my recommendations and appeal, which were raised during the period of the position transfer of the president of the National Anti-Drug Authority on 19 June 2009. I would like to push and encourage the continuation of this kind of participating spirit like drizzling rain in order that we can move to build our community and country, free of drugs in the future.

In this regard, since the National Anti-Drug Authority has been preparing to build a National Center for Treatment, Rehabilitation of the Drug Users in Kampong Speu, I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to Excellencies, Lok Chum Teav, Neak Okgna, Ladies and Gentlemen, representatives from the private companies, civil societies, national and international organizations and all donors to help contribute in either cash or in kind to the process of this construction in order to enable us to accept the drug users for treatment and rehabilitation according to the standard of medical technology, maintaining the respect of human rights and laws of the country.

At the end, I would like to wish Your Venerable Monks, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, who are present here today, the four gems of Buddhist Blessings: Longevity, Nobility, Health and Strength.

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