The Shay Rebellion | Christopher Shay

Drug Raids in Phnom Penh

Drug users take a hit as police raids force them into hiding

With a new police chief out to make his name, drug users in Phnom Penh once again live in constant fear of the authorities. I talked to four women for the article who had recently been picked up by the police, beaten and then released. What was most disturbing was not their graphic depictions of police brutality, but their nonchalant way of telling me about it—as if being kicked in the ribs by a policeman was no big deal to them. For them, police violence had become routine.

The women aren’t afraid of being beaten—they’ve gotten used to it—they’re afraid of being taken to a government-run “treatment” center. The police told them that the government was building a new facility, and once it was finished, they taken there and forgotten forever.

A drug user, who was shot in the stomach by the police ten days earlier, smokes yaba.

This is probably just an empty threat from corrupt police, but these women are terrified. They’ve all heard the rumors about of gang rape and detainees being beaten to death.

The police all know where the NGOs that do needle exchange are located, and these women believe that the police try to intentionally patrol those streets.

It should go without saying but this seriously undermines the ability of drug users to seek services, and by forcing them underground, it makes it harder for NGOs to reach out and educate drug users about the dangers of injection drug use.

If the Ministry of Health institutes its pilot methadone maintenance program this summer and these brutal raids continue, no drug user will trust the government, ruining the chances of a humane and effective detox program.

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One Response

  1. Carmen says:

    Mr.SHay:You have a big change…I have seen your profile photo..

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