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Fighting illicit drugs in the Greater Mekong Sub-region and Pacific Island countries by giving law enforcement better equipment

Mandalay (Myanmar) and Auckland (New Zealand), 10 December 2014
- Front line officers combating the illicit drugs threat in the Greater Mekong Sub-region and in the Pacific Island States and Territories are now being equipped to quickly identify illicit drugs and their precursor chemicals - and trained in how to properly use field drug-testing kits - thanks to two forensic capacity building trainings co-organised by UNODC Global Synthetic Monitoring: Analyses, Reporting and Trends (SMART) Programme.

On 25-26 November, Training on Basic Drug and Precursor Identification for the front line law enforcement officers in the Greater Mekong Sub-region, was held in Mandalay, Myanmar and organized with support from the Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control (CCDAC), Myanmar. The workshop aimed to enhance the interception capacity for law enforcement officers in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Viet Nam, specifically in the area of drugs and precursor identification.

The production and trafficking of methamphetamine and heroin continue to be a major human security threat in these four countries. Meanwhile, the precursor chemicals necessary to make the illicit drugs are trafficked to manufacturing centres in the region from South East Asia and beyond.

Law enforcement officers in the field have thus far not had the resources to be able to swiftly and systematically identify seized substances. This has hampered their ability to detect and interdict the flows of drugs and precursors into and out from their countries.

Recognizing this need, the UNODC has made provisions to deliver 200 field testing kits (both drugs and precursor) to the police and customs agencies in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Viet Nam, and also provided training on how to use these kits to 25 law enforcement and forensic officials from these countries. Myanmar already received 53 test kits.

"We need to equip the front line officers with the necessary skills and adequate equipment to contain the threats posed by drug and precursor trafficking. When they encounter a suspicious looking substance, they should be able to identify it straight away" said Mr. Tun Nay Soe, Programme Coordinator for Global SMART East Asia. "These user-friendly test kits will assist law enforcement officers with rapid and simple colour tests for the preliminary field identification of drugs and precursors most commonly encountered in the illicit traffic."

In addition, the UNODC Global SMART Programme and the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat (PIFS) jointly organised a similar forensic capacity building training for Forum Islands Countries in Auckland, New Zealand on 1-2 December 2014.

In his welcoming remarks, New Zealand Police Detective Superintendent Mr. Andrew Lovelock said that the workshop is intended "to focus on and develop an increased awareness and understanding of the various investigations open to you within your respective jurisdictions to enhance your ability to combat the illicit drug trade."

In recent years, Pacific Islands States and Territories face significant challenges from drug trafficking and use. The region is located near major amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) markets, making it vulnerable to the trafficking of various illicit goods, including drugs and their precursor chemicals.

Mr. Ioane Alama, Regional Security Adviser, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, said, "Our countries are being noted on the radar and becoming significant transit point of methamphetamine and cocaine."

Limited resources and lack of information sharing between the countries also hamper their efforts in containing the illicit drug threats in the region.

Organised with the kind support of the New Zealand Police, the workshop brought together 15 law enforcement officers from Cook Islands, Fiji, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu. During the workshop, participants learned the basic drug and precursor identification methods in the field through interactive and practical learning sessions. The workshop also provided participants the opportunity to share their experiences and discuss how to better collaborate in their future work.

The Global SMART Programme also distributed 20 field drug testing kits to participating countries upon the conclusion of the workshop.

UNODC drug testing kits provide law enforcement personnel with the means to conduct on-site testing for illicit drugs, including narcotics such as opium and heroin as well as psychotropic substances like amphetamines. UNODC also produces precursor testing kits that help identify precursor chemicals used to manufacture drugs, such as acetic anhydride, which is used to make heroin.

Background: The Global SMART Programme has been implementing activities in Myanmar since 2009. To date, the Programme has held three national workshops to identify priority needs in countering ATS problems, particularly methamphetamine. UNODC launched the Global SMART Programme in September 2008 to enhance the capacity of member states and authorities in East and Southeast Asia to generate, manage, analyse and report synthetic drug and precursor information, and to apply this evidence-based knowledge to policy and programme design and implementation. Eleven countries in the region receive related assistance from UNODC through Global SMART - Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam.

The UNODC Global SMART Programme receives financial support from the Governments of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States.