UNODC's Youth Ambassadors awarded for public stance against drugs
Author: Vientiane Times Reporters
Newspaper section: International Cooperation
Youth Ambassders yesterday received drug presentation award at a ceremony held at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) after conducting drug awareness and prevention campaigns in Laos.
UNODC Representative in Laos Mr Leik Boonwaat told Vientiane Times the UNODC was glad to the ambassadors for their efforts in educatiing youths about drugs and the threats they pose.
However, he was unable to say if the number amphetamine users in Vientiane has started to decrease as a result."Nevertheless, we can see that youths in Vientiane now have an understanding of the dangers of durgs as a result of the awareness and prevention capaigns," he pointed out.
According to the Lao National Commission for Drug Control and Supervision (LCDC) about 99 percent of drug addicts in Laos use amphetamines. Drug dealers in some parts of Vientiane are now selling amphetamine pills as casually as if they were sweets.
Laos is an overwhelmingly youthful nation undergoing rapid development and transformation. Traditional lifestyles, attitudes and values are being challenged as never befor with enormous implications and potentials for young people, who make up some 50 percent of the population.
Mr Leik added that amphetamine, o rmore colloquially yabaa, is being used by young people at an alarming rate, threatening the stability, security and socio-economic development of the country.
The need to build a healthy and free drug environment is the cornerstone of any development programme, and underpins the success of the UN Millennium Development Goals.
The UNODC and the Lao government acknowledge that prevention is as important as treatment and rehabilitation, said Mr Leik, adding that together with the government and private sector the UNODC launched a one year drug awareness and prevention campaign in June this year.
The UNODC's youth ambassadors are pop musician Mr Athisack Rattanavong, singers Ms Aluna Thavonesouk and Ms Maylaong Sisanon, gold-medal judo fighter Mr Khemkham Kommanivong, footballer Mr Lam Nao Singto, student Ms Phonesavanh Inthongvong, and Miss Laos 2010 Malaythip.
In 2010 the LCDC seized 24 million amphetamine pills in Laos. Since the late 1990s Laos has experienced rapid increases in the rates of amphetamine use and addiction. Consumtion of the drug has led to an increase in theft, violent crime and corruption, and is a serious threat to national developmen, security and social stability.
UNODC says Laos has become a major transit route for drugs carried between neighbouring countries. Over a three year period, heroin seizures increased more than fourfold from 17.5 kg in 2008 to over 84 kg in 2010.
Meanwhile there has been a 1,890 percent rise in amphetamine seizures, from 1.23 million tablets in 2008 to 24.5 million tablets in 2010, according to the UNODC.
Additionally, seizures of opium doubled to over 18 tonnes during the same period.