UNODC and INL Support to Strengthen Prosecutors' Capacity to Fight Organized Crime for Sustainable Development
It was recently reported that Lao PDR had seen an over 70% increase in reported human trafficking cases from 2010 to 2011. A total of 37 new cases related to human trafficking were brought before the court during 2011. Among the 195 trafficking victims returned from Thailand in 2011, 68% (125 females, 8 males) were under the age of 18, and furthermore, 31% (55 females and 6 males) were under the age of 15.
Drug production and trafficking is another serious threat. According to the annual Opium Surveys, Lao PDR saw a 173% increase in opium cultivation in five consecutive years from 1,500ha in 2007 to 4,100 ha in 2011. There has also been an eighteen fold increase in seizures of Amphetamine Type Stimulant, commonly called Yaba, from 2008 to 2010. In 2011, the Asia Pacific Group on Anti Money Laundering estimates that annual proceeds from illicit drugs in the Lao PDR could be higher than US$ 750 million. It is also estimated that some 80% of ongoing court trials are drug related.
The Lao Government has been committed to strengthening its criminal justice legislation and the capacity of front-line law enforcement and judicial officers to bring those responsible for serious crimes to justice. UNODC has been a key partner of the Government in strengthening criminal justice responses to transnational organized crime. There are two ongoing UNODC country projects, the LAOX26 Strengthening Criminal Justice Responses to Human Trafficking in Lao PDR and the LAOI95 Development of the National Drug Law Enforcement Strategy, committed to strengthening legislation concerned and the capacity of officials to fight organized crime.
On 8 June 2012, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at the US State Department's Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), Mr. Brian A. Nichols, announced a new $150,000 training programme for Lao prosecutors through the UNODC LAOX26 Project in his meeting with Vice Minister of Justice, Prof. Ket Kiettisak and representatives from the Office of the Supreme People's Prosecutor (OSPP).
UNODC Representative for Lao PDR, Mr. Leik Boonwaat, stated that the programme should help Lao prosecutors to develop specialized skills in penalizing criminal activities such as narcotics and human trafficking, money laundering, corruption and cybercrime, making them even more effective in achieving convictions for criminals throughout the country. The programme Promotion of evidence-based approach in crime investigation and prosecution in the Lao PDR will be implemented as a sub-project under the LAOX26 Project. It plans to promote prosecutors' understanding of effective use of evidence in criminal cases through research by national experts and training of practitioners. It also plans to raise awareness of use of scientific evidence in criminal cases. The sub-project's highlight will be knowledge sharing by foreign experts based on their own experiences in investigation and prosecution of complicated cases.
Prof. Ket Kiettisak expressed appreciation to generous support by the US Government and continued technical assistance by UNODC. He also stated that he believed that the new sub-project would help the Government achieve socio-economic development based on the rule of law.