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Asean targets drug free status by 2015

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Asean targets drug free status by 2015

Article from Vientiane Times
Author: Khonesavanh Latsaphao
Published: 25/06/2012
Newspaper section: International Cooperation

The Lao National Commission for Drug Control and Supervision (LCDC) has held discussions with the Asean Ambassadors Group in Laos, aiming to make the Asean region a drug free zone by 2015.

LCDC Chairman Mr Soubanh Srithirath said leaders met in Phnom Penh this month and adopted a Declaration which in the strongest terms emphasizes the need to make the Asean region a drug free zone by 2015.

However, increased trafficking of chemical precursors and increased production and abuse of methamphetamines has heightened the struggle between regional drug syndicates and police forces, which has resulted in very serious threats from organized transnational crime.

"I would like to draw your attention to the current situation of opium poppy cultivation, amphetamine type stimulants, drug abuse and increased transnational trafficking of illicit drugs," he said.

In 2006 Laos came close to eradicating opium poppy cultivation, reducing the cultivation area by 94 percent from 27,000 ha to 1,500 ha, and opium addiction by 80 percent from 63,000 people to 12,000.

Mr Soubanh said these achievements can be attributed to the firm political will of the Lao government and provincial authorities to put an end to this scourge on society. "Let me express our gratitude to the international community, namely the

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the countries who have generously contributed to this effort," he said. However six years after this historic declaration, opium production in the region including in Laos has increased year after year. In Laos alone there has been a 173 percent increase from 1,500 ha in 2007 to 4,100 ha in 2011, Mr Soubanh said. At the same time the trafficking of amphetamine type substances (ATS), pseudoephedrine, heroin and marijuana gained new impetus.

This was demonstrated by the unprecedented seizure of 24.5 million tablets of ATS in 2010. "In May 2012 alone we seized more than 6.6 million tablets. Five million tablets were seized in Luang Namtha towards the end of May and an additional 1.6 million tablets were seized in Luang Prabang earlier in the month."

The recent armed clashes between drug syndicates and law enforcement officers along the Mekong River where the borders of Laos, Myanmar and Thailand meet threaten regional security," he said.

"However, we were successful in apprehending the major drug kingpin Sai Naw Kham at the end of April in Ban Mom, Bokeo province," Mr Soubanh noted, saying it was a major win for law and order in the region. However, the growing amphetamines problem means that increasing numbers of drug users are seeking treatment, which is a burden beyond the existing resources of the treatment services in Laos, he said.

To realise a drug-free Asean Community, Asean leaders have said they will intensify concerted efforts to realise the vision and goal of a drug-free Asean Community by 2015.

It is a high-priority agenda of Asean to speed up the implementation of the Asean Work Plan on Combating Illicit Drug Production, Trafficking and Use 2009-2015 and the Roadmap for an Asean Community (2009-2015) on Drug-free Asean by 2015.

Cooperation and coordination measures will be further expanded with Asean's dialogue partners and external parties to eradicate illicit drugs in the region. "In Laos we think that urgent measures are pertinent and there are two measures that must be taken simultaneously in order to address the drug problem efficiently," Mr Soubanh said.

"Firstly it is crucial that we continue to implement the nine programme pillars contained in the National Drug Control Master Plan that was adopted by the Lao government and UNODC in 2009. Secondly it is crucial to reinforce our cooperation with neighbouring countries to address transnational crime."