Some 55,000 people in Laos are at risk of becoming drug addicts as the country is increasingly used as a drug transit route and opium poppy cultivation is on the rise.

The figure was unveiled at the annual meeting on drug control and supervision, which opened in Vientiane yesterday.

According to a report from the Lao National Commission for Drug Control and Supervision (LNCDC), 80 percent of drug users take amphetamines while 20 percent use opium, heroin, cannabis and other substances.

Amphetamines have penetrated all sectors of society, including civil servants, retired people, and even monks and novices.

“Despite the efforts made by our officials to combat the drug trade, there h as been no impact on the activities of drug dealers in the country,” said LNCDC Acting Chairman Mr Kou Chansina. Laos was officially declared to be opium free in 2006, but the clandestine cultivation of poppies continues in the north, and is increasing by 20 to 30 percent every yea r.

A United Nations aerial survey and Chinese satellite pictures last year showed there were about 5,000 hectares under opium poppy cultivation.

According to statistics from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), as the result of the strong political will of the Lao government and support from Australia, the United States of America, the European Union, Germany, Japan, Luxembourg and other countries in partnership with UNODC, from 1998 to 2006 opium poppy cultivation in Laos decreased by 94 percent.

However, from 2006 to 2012, Southeast Asia has seen opium poppy cultivation doubling. Global opium production is estimated to be about 7,000 tonnes.

Twenty-five percent of the global total area under cultivation is producing a potential 690 tonnes of opium while Laos with 3 percent of the global total area under cultivation is producing a potential 41 tonnes of opium.

This year sees the conclusion of the implementation of the National Drug Control Master Plan for 2009 to 2013. But Laos remains a transit route for the illicit trafficking of drugs and precursors, and other transnational organised crime related commodities.

To mount a response to the threats and challenges from the increasing flows of narcotic drugs, Deputy Regional Director of UNODC and Country Representative in Laos, Mr Leik Boonwaat, called for better understanding of the problem and stronger political will. He also suggested establishing normative frameworks for national and international responses.

In his address at the opening ceremony of the meeting, Deputy Prime Minister Asang Laoly called on participants to engage in frank discussions to identify enforceable measures to limit opium cultivation in the northern provinces and drive down production year by year.

He also called for a concerted effort to lower the number of young amphetamine addicts by using all available services such as rehabilitation centres, effective controls at focal border crossings, and slowing the transit of drugs through the country.

By Times Reporters
(Latest Update February 12, 2013)