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Lao PDR 'extremely vulnerable' to trafficking by transnational organized crime groups, says UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov

At women and children's centre, says that police response to crimes against children should focus on victims and their human rights and urges support for the UNODC projects protecting them from heinous crime

Mr. Yury Fedotov meets students of the National University


Vientiane, 5 December 2012 - Lao PDR's position at the hub of the Greater Mekong Sub-region and its shared borders with Cambodia, China, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam make it "extremely vulnerable" to the trafficking of people, illicit drugs and commodities by transnational organized crime groups, warned Mr. Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the Vienna-based UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).  He said this was true even despite the country's economic reforms, impressive economic growth rate and its efforts to combat corruption.

"While economic growth and regional integration bring many positives such as the increased mobility of goods, services, people and money, they also provide opportunities for transnational organized crime to expand and threaten human security and challenge the rule of law," said Mr. Fedotov.

"Transnational organized criminal syndicates operating in the region traffic in a number of things which are dangerous - like illicit drugs, children, women and men, in counterfeit products and fake medicines.  But they also play a role in illicit resource extraction - like protected natural resources, timber, fish and other wildlife - things which harm the environment.  They are a threat to public health and society's well-being", said Mr. Fedotov.  "Let's put them out of business!"

In his first ever official visit, Mr. Fedotov met with H. E. Thongsing Thammavong , the Prime Minister of the Lao PDR, the Minister of Public Security, Dr. Thongban Seng-Aphone, the Minister and Head of the President's Office Mr. Phongsavth Boupha  and Mr. Kou Chansina, Acting Chair of the Lao National Commission for Drug Control and Supervision.  He also met with victims of human trafficking and university students as well as Lao Youth Celebrity Ambassadors who led the UNODC drug prevention campaign in the Lao PDR.

Mr. Fedotov thanked the Government for its annual contribution to UNODC's annual South-East Opium Survey.  He reiterated UNODC Lao PDR Country Programme's continued support to the Government efforts to ensure the rule of law and address drugs, crime and terrorism.

UNODC has successfully developed strong partnership with the Government, donors and other development partners in Laos since its first alternative development assistance project was commenced in 1989.  For 23 years, UNODC has been expanding the scope of its assistance from supporting alternative livelihood for opium poppy cultivating communities to drug demand reduction and community based treatment of drug users, reduction of HIV infection related to injecting drug use, drug law enforcement.  UNODC is currently supporting the implementation of the comprehensive National Drug Control Master Plan and also strengthening national capacities and criminal justice responses to address human trafficking, sexual exploitation of minors, corruption, money laundering and terrorism.

Mr. Yury Fedotov meets with the Prime Minister of the Lao PDR, Mr Thongsing Thammavong


The Minister of Public Security, Dr. Thongban Seng-Aphone, meeting with Mr. Fedotov


During a visit to the UNODC-supported Counseling and Protection Center for Women and Children, Mr. Fedotov noted that the centre currently housed both women and children who had been victimized by human trafficking - as well as domestic violence and sexual exploitation. He commended police and prosecutors for focusing on victims and their human rights in their response to such crimes against children and women.

Mr. Fedotov reiterated a broad coverage of issues - from alternative development to rule of law by UNODC assistance in Laos and urged support for all these efforts.

Mr. Fedotov visited the Counseling and Protection Center for Women and Children


In other meetings, Mr. Fedotov congratulated the Government for significant seizures of illicit drugs in the last few years, and strongly emphasized the need for an effective community-based approach to drug abuse and HIV prevention.  Such an approach should be evidence-based and supportive of human rights.

Mr. Fedotov greets the UNODC Youth Ambassadors who sang a drug prevention song for him.

The Executive Director meets with UNODC staff at the Country Office in Vientiane.