Laos Steps Up Crackdown on Illegal Drugs as Narcotics Cases Rise


2015-02-04
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laos-poppies-2006.jpg Poppies grow in a field in northern Laos, as seen in a file photo from the UNODC.
AFP PHOTO/UNODC

Laos has vowed to crack down harder on illegal drugs seen as threat to society by going after important ring leaders and dealers on the street as well as increasing border inspections around the Golden Triangle area where narcotics are smuggled into the country, a Lao security official said.

The official, who declined to be named, told RFA’s Lao Service that authorities this year will seek out the country’s main drug rings, including small dealers and producers, by focusing the operation on the Laos-Myanmar border where drugs are often smuggled into the country.

The Golden Triangle encompasses an area of about 367,000 square miles that overlaps the mountains of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand and is a major site for opium production, which is processed into heroin.

“We’re targeting the buyers, sellers and consumers,” he said. “We sent law enforcement officers to the Laos-Myanmar border, the area where drug kingpin [Jai] Nokham used to smuggle drugs into Lao territory.”

Jai Nokham, a Myanmar drug lord believed to be involved in the murder of 13 Chinese sailors on the Mekong River in October 2011, was arrested in Laos in April 2012 and sent to China to face murder and drug-related charges.

The official said drug traffickers enter Laos via passages in the northern provinces of Bokeo, Oudomxay, and Luang Namtha.

Targeting addicts

Drug agents also will target drug addicts in large cities and take the campaign to rural areas where there hadn’t been any reported previously, he said

Most of the addicts are young people and include Chinese and Vietnamese workers, who in many cases end up committing crimes to support drug habits, such as stealing people’s belongings in the street or breaking into homes, he said.

The number of drug-related crimes rose last year to more than 1,600 incidences compared to about 340 in to 2013, according to the Lao Ministry of Public Security.

More than 2,500 suspects were involved in drug dealing last year, including more than 50 foreigners, according to the ministry.

Agents also seized more than 160 kgs (352 lbs) of heroin in 2014, along with amphetamine and crystal methamphetamine.

A 2014 report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said that opium production in Laos and neighboring Myanmar remained a significant challenge to sustainable development in the region, despite continued eradication efforts.

High levels of consumption of refined opium in the form of heroin in parts of Southeast Asia represented a “clear danger to health and development, underscoring the need for evidence-based, health-centered approaches to prevention and treatment,” the report said.

Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Somnet Inthapannha. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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