US$18 million in illicit drugs go up in smoke
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Author: Vientiane Times Reporters
Newspaper section: International Cooperation
Prime Minister of the Lao PDR burning the drugs
Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong , United Nations representatives and international organisations gathered at the That Luang Esplanade in Vientiane yesterday morning to incinerate illicit drugs that have been intercepted in Laos.
The Lao National Commission for Drug Control and Supervision (LCDC) and other agencies organised the ceremony to mark International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, with more than US$18 million (almost 140 billion kip) of contraband going up in smoke.
Drug stashes and shipments intercepted in Vientiane and nearby provinces were among those to be burned, after the courts ordered their destruction. The illicit drugs incinerated on the day included 5.2 million amphetamine tablets, 2,212 kilogrammes of dried cannabis, 307 kg of crystal methamphetamine, 18 kg of compressed heroin, 1.4 kg of heroin powder, and 3.2 kg of a substance resembling but not actually heroin.
Acting LCDC Chairman Mr Kou Chansina reported at the drug burning ceremony that in the past 12 months, counternarcotics police have dealt with 1,457 drug cases nationwide. Police officers arrested 2,202 suspects including 383 females and 47 non-Lao nationals. They also seized more than 13.2 million methamphetamine tablets, 4.6 tonnes of dried cannabis, 128.8 kilos of opium and 208.6 kilos of heroin.
Mr Kou also reported on the drug eradication effort. He said 263 villages in Vientiane have been declared drug free, about 54.5 percent of the total number of villages under its administration. In addition, 626 secondary schools nationwide have been declared drug free, just under half the number in the country.
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) representative to Laos, Mr Leik Boonwaat, said International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking is a suitable occasion for everyone to reflect on the worldwide drug problem. He read a message from UN Secretary-General Mr Ban Ki-moon at the ceremony, stressing that illegal drug trafficking is a clear obstacle to development. This crossborder problem requires a robust and coordinated law enforcement response within and among the countries concerned.
Tackling organised crime and the illicit drugs trade is a shared responsibility, he said, but the rule of law is only part of the equation. For instance, farmers dependent on the cultivation of illicit drugs such as coca, marijuana and opium must be offered alternative livelihoods, while drug users and addicts should not be stigmatised.
The Secretary-General's message also said a human rights and science-based public health approach is the only sound basis for preventing and treating addiction and related consequences such as HIV transmission through unsafe injecting practices.
In the message Mr Ban Ki-moon also addressed threats such as the emerging problem of new psychoactive substances, many of which are not under international control. Young people in particular must be made aware of the dangers of these drugs.