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Senior operational experts meet in Phnom Penh to negotiate new Mekong cooperation framework

Chandu Bhandari, Zhiqiang Tao, UN United Nations UNODC

Phnom Penh (Cambodia), 17 January 2017
- Senior operational experts from the six countries of the Mekong - Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam - have negotiated a new two year plan to address the regional drug situation. Developed under the Mekong MOU on Drug Control framework, the plan to be approved in the coming months by ministers marks a shift towards a more balanced approach.

Data from the last year indicates that seizures of crystal methamphetamine have increased significantly to almost 27,000 kg, while seizures of methamphetamine pills total just under 290 million pills. Heroin seizures exceeded 10,000 kg.

There are also indications that regional integration is changing and amplifying the flow of illegal drugs and precursors within the region. Precursor chemicals needed for the production of methamphetamine and heroin are being trafficked in large volumes through expanding overland road networks that connect into producing areas, mainly from China and India, while drugs are being trafficked in the opposite direction.

Delegations agreed that a rethink is required to address the situation, and the Mekong MOU is the ideal framework through which a holistic and balanced plan can move forward. Accordingly, the new plan has a focus across four thematic areas: drugs and health; law enforcement; justice; and sustainable alternative development.

"The Mekong MOU is the most effective vehicle through which we can cooperate and adapt to the fluid nature of the drug challenge", said Mr. Tao Zhiqiang, UNODC Drug Control Officer. "At a time when the region is undergoing unprecedented integration, we need to harness this framework to ensure that the six countries continue to cooperate and collaborate, not only with each other, but also with other countries of the ASEAN region they connect to".

The six countries have already had some degree of success in addressing the production, trafficking and use of illicit drugs through the Mekong MOU. However, there is consensus that new and alternative approaches need to be considered.

"The four thematic areas respond to the vast and complex nature of the drug problem in the region", said H.E. Pol. Gen. Meas Vyrith, Secretary General of Cambodia's National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD). "We are aware of the gaps that exist among countries, and working through the Mekong MOU across the four thematic areas will ensure that the plans respond to the evolving nature of the drug problem".

"As the seventh partner and a signatory to the Mekong MOU, UNODC provides planning, strategic, technical and secretariat support to the Mekong MOU process", said Mr. Chandu Bhandari, UNODC Regional Adviser. "It builds the institutional and operational capacities of the countries through targeted activities and initiatives".

Click here to learn more about the Mekong MOU.

Click here to learn more about UNODC's work on drugs and health.

Click here to learn more about UNODC's work on law enforcement cooperation.

Click here to learn more about UNODC's work on criminal justice.

Click here to learn more about UNODC's work on sustainable alternative development.