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Lao PDR and UNODC Strengthen Counter-Terrorism Collaboration

Vientiane (Lao PDR), 23 April 2012 - In March 2002, counter-terrorism collaboration between Lao People's Democratic Republic and UNODC took another step forward, with the National Experts Workshop on the Implementation of Lao PDR-UNODC Partnership on Criminal Justice Responses to Terrorism, held in Vientiane on 27 March.

Lao PDR has been relatively free from threats of terrorist attacks within its territory.  Yet, with the ever-increasing transnational nature and sophistication of terrorism, fragilities and vulnerabilities in its national counter-terrorism systems can make Lao PDR attractive to terrorists and expose it to being used as a financing hub for terrorist actions or as a safe haven.

Recognizing such threats, the Lao PDR Government has been taking steps to strengthen its counter-terrorism legal frameworks and capacity, in compliance with international standards and requirements.  Drawing on UNODC support, Lao PDR has ratified nine of the sixteen universal counter-terrorism instruments and is taking steps to incorporate their provisions into national legislation.

Over the past several years, UNODC has been supporting Lao PDR Government in its CT efforts, especially to update the national legal frameworks against terrorism and to build capacity of its criminal justice system officials to implement them effectively.

UNODC's engagement with Lao PDR has now been further reinforced through the initiation of a country-specific partnership programme of activities, formulated through a "whole-of-government" consultation process. Through the partnership, Lao DPR and UNODC will work towards enhancing the national capacity to implement rule of law-based counter-terrorism measures.

The March 27 National Experts Workshop was held to plan to specific steps for implementing the partnership programme.

"We have been fortunate to be spared of terrorist attacks. But Lao PDR recognizes the potential treat terrorism poses. We need to achieve effective preparedness, we are determined to strive towards that goal", said Mrs. Phavanh Nuanthasing, Director General of the Department of International Organizations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who opened the Workshop. "And we welcome the partnership and assistance of UNODC in this challenging endeavour", she continued.

Lao PDR - UNODC partnership programme forms part of the East and Southeast Asia Partnership on Criminal Justice Responses to Terrorism, initiated in 2011.  Its objective is to support participating countries in their efforts to "achieve preparedness against terrorism and implement rule of law-based counter-terrorism measures". It is being implemented through country-specific programmes of activities.

Lao PDR has become the third country to formalize a country programme, joining Indonesia and the Philippines which had done so earlier. Vietnam is in the final stages of approving a country programme and a Cambodia is in the process of elaborating one.

Speaking at the Workshop opening, Mr. Leik Boonwaat, UNODC Representative for Lao PDR, noted: "we are pleased that Lao PDR has formally joined the Southeast Asia CT Partnership Programme, further strengthening the long-standing partnership between Lao PDR and UNODC in combating the many challenges posed by transnational crime and illicit drugs".

The Workshop participants - representatives of various national entities concerned with counter-terrorism work - working together with UNODC experts, identified immediate priority areas requiring assistance, designed corresponding programme activities and established target timelines. Priorities identified included, for example, translation of treaties on international crime and terrorism, analysis of gaps between national legislation and ratified treaties and training on investigation of complicated cases. Participants also agreed on appointment of counter-terrorism focal points in the concerned agencies, to ensure smooth ongoing inter-agency coordination.

The Lao PDR Government and UNODC have already moved ahead with specific activities for  implementing the programme, for example by jointly organizing an interagency workshop held in Vientiane on 11-12 April, on refinement of the draft Law on Extradition, the Government plans to submit to the National Assmebly's next session in June. The workshop was participated in by officers from the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Defence, the Office of the Supreme People's Prosecutor and the People's Supreme Court. The UNODC Terrorism Prevention Officer from the Regional Centre in Bangkok and a Thai prosecutor joined the meeting as resource persons.

In his opening ramark, H.E. Professor Ket Kiettisak, Vice-Minister of Justice, referred to Lao PDR's obligation to put appropriate legislation in place based on ratified treaties and welcomed the Law on Extradition as a useful tool to fight transnational organized crime and terrorism. The participants, who are legal experts from concerned agencies, closely reviewed the draft law provisions and tried to ensure the law's consistency with related treaties and enforceability through active discussion.