This briefing paper aims to highlight current drug policy issues relevant to proportionality of sentencing in Cambodia, and to discuss some relevant international principles and practices which may be relevant to consideration of those issues.
The drug market in Cambodia is characterized by transit trafficking flows and consumption. Available data reported by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) show the quantities of drugs seized by law enforcement agencies from 2008 to 2012 as being amongst the lowest in Southeast Asia, with increased seizures of crystalline methamphetamine (from 1.9 to 33.5 kg), ecstasy (from 33 to 1,373 kg) and cocaine (from 0.2 to 41 kg), and a drop in seizures of methamphetamine pills, heroin and cannabis during that time period. While data on the prevalence of drug use are not adequate or reliable enough to outline precise trends, both drug policy officials and health experts working with people who use drugs observe rising trends in the use of ATS, such as methamphetamine and crystalline methamphetamine via smoking in addition to prescription drug use, and a corresponding decline in the injecting use of opiate-based drugs. The government estimates there are approximately13,000 people who use drugs in the country, of which about 1,300 are people who inject drugs.
In this context, disproportionate sentencing frameworks compound negative socio-economic conditions and increase the vulnerability of marginalised groups, hence fail to tackle the motivations that drive many to commit drug trafficking offences. There is a need to review existing sentencing framework for drug offences, to ensure that penalties for drug offences are the least intrusive option available, and are appropriate and necessary for meeting the legitimate aim of ensuring the health and welfare of the community. Consideration could also be given to imposing no punishment or reduced or suspended sentences, as well as alternatives to imprisonment, for minor cases where appropriate.
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