Lao PDR: more than 3 tons of drugs go up in smoke
Vientiane (Lao PDR), 5 July 2010 - Over 3 tons of illicit drugs seized by Lao law enforcement officers were burned last week near the Lao National Assembly in commemoration of the twenty-third anniversary of the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
Nearly 9 kg of heroin, 985,000 methamphetamine (Yabaa) pills, 2.8 tons of cannabis and 176 kg of opium were destroyed at the burning ceremony.
While the Lao People's Democratic Republic has achieved unprecedented success in dropping opium production and addiction rates to insignificant levels in less tha 10 years (1998-2007), with respective cultivation and addiction rates dropping by 94.5 and 81 per cent, the amphetamine-type-stimulants shock that hit South-East Asia in the mid-1990s has become a serious challenge for the country.
Transformed from a landlocked country to a "land-linked" country due to major improvements in transportation infrastructure, the Lao People's Democratic Republic has become a transit route for transnational criminal syndicates who profit from the country's central location to move drugs to vast markets. This spillover effect of synthetic drugs transiting through the country has created an abuse problem affecting youth in urban centres and along trafficking routes.
"Lao PDR is located at the hub of the Greater Mekong Subregion, sharing borders with five countries. It is situated between the drug producers and their highly lucrative markets," said H.E Mr. Soubanh Srithirath, Minister to the President's Office and chairman of the Lao Commission for Drug Control. "Our Government foresees the long-term dangerous impact of drugs on security, stability and national socio-economic development of the country," he added.
In a country where an estimated 51 per cent of the population is below the age of 21, the problem of amphetamine-type stimulants has been identified as a priority drug control issue that affects people's health, the social fabric of Lao society and the overall national security and sovereignty of the country. In his opening remarks, Prime Minister H.E Mr. Bouasone Bouphavanh said: "The Government will concretely pursue its existing policies and measures by focusing on integrated rural development in conjunction with the National Drug Control Master Plan aiming at gradually improving the livelihoods of people in remote areas".
Speaking at the ceremony, Leik Boonwaat, UNODC representative in the Lao People's Democratic Republic, said: "the Government of the Lao PDR and its people have made significant achievements in addressing the challenges of illicit drugs. However, recent events have shown that it is important to be ever vigilant. Support for the National Drug Control Master Plan is becoming even more crucial in order to achieve national development goals."