Cambodian officers burn drugs inside a brick kiln during a...

Cambodian officers burn drugs inside a brick kiln during a drug destruction ceremony to mark the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, outside Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, June 14, 2024. Cambodian authorities on Friday destroyed more than 7 tons of illicit drugs and ingredients. Those drugs included heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine, ecstasy, cathinone, ketamine and nimetazepam. Credit: AP/Heng Sinith

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Cambodian authorities on Friday destroyed more than seven tons of illicit drugs and the ingredients for them, as a drug-fighting official said educating people about their danger is the best way of combating the illegal trade.

Some 4.1 tons of the destroyed items were drugs including heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine, ecstasy and ketamine that had been confiscated from traffickers across the country, the National Authority for Combating Drugs said. The remaining 3.2 tons were various chemicals and other ingredients used to produce illegal drugs, it said.

Gen. Meas Virith, secretary general of the drug-fighting agency, said the drugs that were burned in a brick kiln at a ceremony on the outskirts of the capital, Phnom Penh, had an estimated wholesale value of $22.7 million and a street value of nearly $70 million. Had they not been seized, they could have harmed millions of people, he said.

He said the best way now to fight illegal drugs is by educating Cambodians from all walks of life about the dangers they pose. To teach people not to use or traffic illicit drugs is better than just cracking down on those criminally involved, he said.

“As you are aware, if we use only crackdown measures, then we need to do so repeatedly. Let’s say this year we burn these things, and next year we will do it again,” he said. “But if we invest in drug education, awareness and protection, then drug activities would be reduced.”

Meas Virith said the authorities pursued more than 3,800 drug-related cases in the first five months of this year, arresting more than 10,000 people, including foreigners.

The production and trafficking of synthetic drugs, especially methamphetamine, are at record highs in Southeast Asia and pose a major threat to its societies, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Workers load drugs inside a brick kiln during a drug...

Workers load drugs inside a brick kiln during a drug destruction ceremony to mark the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, outside Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, June 14, 2024. Cambodian authorities on Friday destroyed more than 7 tons of illicit drugs and ingredients. Those drugs included heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine, ecstasy, cathinone, ketamine and nimetazepam. Credit: AP/Heng Sinith

“Seizures of crystal methamphetamine have increased year-by-year in Cambodia for the seventh year in a row, reaching over 1.4 tons in 2023, showing the ongoing expansion of the market for the drug in the country,” the U.N. agency said in a report last month.

“The amount of heroin seized doubled in 2023. This increase in heroin seizures was observed in multiple countries in East and Southeast Asia, possibly indicating a reinvigoration in the heroin market in the region after declining seizures the previous year.”

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