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Narcotics go up in smoke on Day against Drugs

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Article from Vientiane Times
Author: Times Reporters
Published: 27/06/2012
Newspaper section: International Cooperation

Mr Thongsing Thammavong ( first left ) and high ranking officials look at confiscated drugs.

Narcotic drugs including 12,525kg of unrefined heroin, 470,170kg of amphetamine type stimulants, 1,535kg of cannabis and 226.5kg of white powder containing chemical precursors went up in flames yesterday in Vientiane.

The confiscated drugs were burned at an official ceremony held to mark the 25th International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

In a message delivered to mark the occasion, Prime Minister and Chairman of the Central Drug Control Steering Committee, Mr Thongsing Thammavong, warned against the growing danger posed by the drug trade.

The drug problem is global, he said. It endangers mankind, hinders social and economic development, causes crime and corruption and brings devastation to the lives and families of addicts.

The event was also attended by Minister of Public Security and Deputy Chairman of the Central Drug Control Steering Committee, Mr Thongbanh Seng-aphone; Chairman of the Lao National Drug Control and Supervision, Mr Soubanh Srithirath; United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Representative to Laos, Mr Leik Boonwaat; ministers and members of the diplomatic corps.

Mr Thongsing said the Party and government made solving the drug problem their prime duty and a national priority. The two bodies have effectively directed and led the necessary drug control and prevention activities.

The production and trafficking of drugs has become a transnational problem. Even though many countries have ceaselessly increased measures to prevent and solve these problems, the production, use, trafficking and transportation of illegal drugs and chemical precursors in the region and in the world are still on a rising trend and very active, Mr Thongsing said.

This requires increased cooperation and coordination among the international and national organisations concerned to ensure more success in solving drug problems. Mr Thongsing reported that in Laos, trafficking of amphetamine type stimulants (ATS) has become widespread and takes place in towns and rural areas, on plains and in remote mountainous regions. Nowadays, significant numbers of young people, schoolchildren and students, workers and farmers in many places have become addicted to drugs. Many of these people are contributing to social disorder and creating problems in society by carrying out thefts and robberies and getting involved in road accidents and gang fights.

In 2006, Laos successfully eliminated opium poppy cultivation and officially declared success in being able to significantly eliminate illicit poppy cultivation by 94 percent from 27,000 hectares. At the same time, the number of opium addicts was reduced by 80 percent, from 63,000 to 12,000 people, Mr Soubanh said.

But in the six years since this historic declaration, opium production in the region, including in Laos, has been increasing year after year. Laos alone has seen a 173 percent increase in poppy cultivation from 1,500 hectares in 2007 to 4,100 hectares in 2011.

The trafficking of ATS, heroin, cannabis and pseudoephedrine, which is a component of cold medicines, has gained new impetus. This was demonstrated by the unprecedented seizure by drug law enforcement officers of 24.5 million tablets of ATS in 2010, Mr Soubanh said.

In May this year, counter-narcotics police seized more than 6.6 million tablets of ATS, with 1.6 million tablets seized in Luang Prabang province in early May and an additional 5 million tablets confiscated in Luang Namtha province at the end of 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. Police officers apprehended the major drug kingpin Sai Norkham at the end of April this year in Mom village, Bokeo province, Mr Soubanh added.