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|UN Hails Laos's New "Get Tough" Approach To Opium Poppy Eradication|
VIENNA, 8 December (UN Information Service) - UN drug control officials are today celebrating clear indications that Laos - the world's third largest producer of opium - has turned the corner towards a "very courageous" approach to poppy eradication.
An order released earlier today by the Prime Minister of the Lao People's Democratic Republic no longer reflects the country's former "go slow" policy and specifically commands all provinces to eradicate opium by 2006. In a humanitarian gesture, however, it allows elderly addicts to grow opium poppy on limited plots exclusively for their own consumption. Poppies grown for commercial purposes are targeted for destruction.
According to the Vienna-based UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP), the order "goes beyond our most optimistic expectations of what we could get done in Laos". If followed through, the UN will herald it as a major achievement in the field of drug control.
In his announcement, Prime Minister Sisavath Keobounphanh states that Laos, like all countries in the world, faces drug problems that are "harming human beings, causing upheaval within the society and being a source of transnational crimes and obstacles to socio-economic development".
He says that through ongoing government efforts, a number of villages in drug producing areas are already on a decreasing trend, but that the nation's past solutions have not yet met the needs of the government or the international community, including the regional goal of a drug-free South-East Asia by 2015.
The Prime Minister therefore orders the provinces to work with the national drug control commission to formulate rural development projects for which funds may be raised both domestically and from abroad and to set opium eradication goals that will result in the crop's total elimination by 2006. These plans must provide for the destruction of commercial poppy crops and the re-education of farmers dependant on them.
The order goes into force immediately throughout the country.
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