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Laos faces up to illicit drug threat


Article from Vientiane Times
Somxay Sengdara
Newspaper section: International Cooperation

Even though Laos is trying to improve its legal system to deal with illegal drugs, the country continues to be threatened by drug trafficking and trans-national crime. Officials from various sectors gathered yesterday at a tripartite meeting to review progress of the Development of the National Drug Law Enforcement Strategy project. "Laos continues to be very vulnerable to threats from drugs and trans-national crime.

It has become a major transit route for drugs from one country to another," United Nations Office and Crime (UNODC) Representative to Laos Mr Leik Boonwaat said. Based on the International Narcotics Control Board's Report for 2010, Mr Boonwaat said developing countries are particularly vulnerable to drug-related corruption and intimidation. According to the report, in the last three years there was a more than 380 percent increase in heroin seizures in Laos, from 17.5 kg in 2009 to 84.34 kg in 2010, as well as a 1,890 percent increase in amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) seizures, from 1.23 million tablets in 2008 to 24.5 million in 2010.

Every seizure is estimated to account for only 10 percent of the total volume of illicit drugs trafficked. Mr Boonwaat said such a situation contributes to significant increases in drug abuse, crime, corruption, and money laundering in Laos. Deputy Minister of Justice Mr Ket Kiettisak admitted the situation needs addressing, saying that while things may appear to be normal, closer scrutiny reveals the severe threats illicit drugs pose to the country.

In cooperation with the donor countries of Japan, Luxembourg, and the United States, and UNODC, the Lao government commenced develop the National Drug Law Enforcement Strategy (NDLES) with the aims of training law professionals and law enforcement officers, and promoting international cooperation against drug trafficking.

According to a report from yesterday's meeting, the project has strengthened inter-agency coordination on law enforcement and criminal justice, while the knowledge of Lao authorities and officers has been compiled in the form of training materials on the application of the law on drugs. However, the report found that Lao officials are challenged by complicated drug trafficking cases, especially cases involving seizures of insufficient amounts of drugs to lead to a conviction.

Project officials have proposed a programme to support the implementation of NDLES into the future by boosting forensic science ability and capacity enhancement through technical assistance and support, as well as assistance for more effective law enforcement, technical assistance to counter transnational organised crime, and access to justice for all those who require it.