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The Royal Project Foundation and UNODC in partnership to sustain opium elimination in the Lao PDR

Vientiane, 13 March 2012 - His Serene Highness, Prince Bhitsatej Rajani, Chairperson of the Royal Project Foundation, Dr Siripong Hungspreung, Director of the Highland Research Development Institute and Mr. Leik Boonwaat, UNODC Representative to the Lao PDR signed a Letter of Intent on the 21 February 2012 at the Princess Lan Luang Hotel in Bangkok.

This Letter of Intent embodies the understanding of the Royal Project Foundation and the Highland Research Development Institute and UNODC to the common concern and need to sustain illicit drug crop elimination in the Lao PDR through the provision of sustainable alternative livelihoods development and poverty alleviation interventions for former opium poppy growing communities. It underlines the intent to jointly promote technical cooperation for food security and sustainable alternative livelihood development in the Lao PDR.

Thailand has more than 40 years of extensive experience in continuously providing sustainable alternative livelihood development to former opium poppy cultivating farmers. HSH Prince Bitsadej said that even after 40 years the Royal Project continues to work hard to find new ways of helping the former opium poppy farming communities.

HSH Prince Bitsadej and the team from the Royal Project Foundation first visited Oudomxay Province some 3 years ago. Since then the technical support received from the RPF and HRDI through the Provincial Government of Oudomxay has helped farmers from two key villages of the Project " increasing food security and promotion of licit crop production and small farmer enterprise development in Oudomxay in the Lao PDR." Incomes of some famers such as Mr. Boun Tan from Houai Oun village have increased tenfold to nearly US$ 2000 a year from new agricultural productivity.

The Lao PDR has been able to significantly eliminate illicit opium poppy cultivation by 94% from a high of 26,837 ha in 1998 to 1500 ha in 2007. However the Lao PDR has seen five years of successive increases in opium poppy cultivation from 1500 ha in 2007 to 4,100 ha in 2011.

This resurgence in illicit opium poppy cultivation was not seen where sustainable alternative development has been provided including in Oudomxay Province.