Cambodia’s drug policies are failing to protect the most vulnerable groups in society due to the steadily rising rates of over-incarceration since the government’s latest drug crackdown, announced on 1 January 2017. The dramatic increase in the numbers of people held in prisons and detention facilities (including pre-trial detention and compulsory drug rehabilitation centers) over the last three years has led to acute overcrowding, exacerbating the long-standing problem of appalling prison conditions and extensive detention of mothers, their infants, pregnant women and childrenin the country.

This briefing paper aims to review developments relating to incarceration and drug policy in Cambodia, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and their specific impacts on women and children. It includes recommendations for reducing the high rates of incarceration and ensuring that gender-specific needs are identified and met, in accordance with international guidance and standards.