By Zhang Jianhua
VIENTIANE, June 27 (Xinhua) -- Lao Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith has called for combined efforts from the Lao people from all walks of life to join global citizens in the fight against illegal drug trade and abuse as it is still a major problem for Laos.
In his speech on Monday to mark the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking which has been observed on June 26 annually since 1987, the prime minister said illicit drug abuse and trade is dangerous for the humankind and is the cause of crimes and corruption, which hinders socio-economic development and also causes huge losses to individuals and families who have fallen victim of drugs.
For Lao residents, illicit drug use and trade is still a major problem in the country.
"Any community in Laos has problems with drugs, including rural and city areas and with teenagers and old people as well," said Mai, a resident of the Longxan district in Lao's central Xaysomboun province.
"It's easy to find a drug dealer. What I have seen is the authorities still don't cooperate well with each other and some local level authorities don't care to give information to their seniors when they find neighborhood drug dealers because some of them could be their friends or neighbors," the Vientiane Times quote the man as saying.
"Drugs are a big problem in the world and difficult to solve, including in Laos. Recently there are many young people taking drugs although the police work hard every day to fight this problem. I see many young people don't have opportunities to become educated or work because they are involved with drugs," according to Dam Sisongmeuang, a resident in the Thadeua village, Hadxaifong district in Vientiane.
In light of the issue, the prime minister outlined seven measures in an effort to suppress the drug issue in the Lao society.
He asked party committees and authorities at all levels and in all sectors in society to consider drug prevention, control and solution efforts as their obligation and task.
"The task must be taken as a focal task associated with grass-root political building affairs," he said in his address, which was quoted by Lao state-run media Vientiane Times.
He asked for the continuing improvement of the organizational structure of the drug inspection and control authorities to make the authorities function more effectively.
The relevant authorities were told to take decisive action to prevent and suppress traffickers in the illicit drug trade in all localities along with identifying targeted traffickers regardless of their nationalities.
Thongloun called for increased cooperation with international communities, notably neighboring countries, in order to exchange information and join efforts to prevent and eradicate production, illicit trade and transport of addictive drugs as well as chemical substances used to produce drugs.
Authorities in charge were told to carry out more awareness-raising campaigns in Lao society, targeting young people in particular, to make them more aware of the dangers of illicit drug abuse and trade so they stay away from the issue.
Prime Minister Thongloun told relevant sectors to keep offering alternative income-generating activities to ex-opium and ex-marijuana farmers and their families to prevent them from returning to planting the illegal crops.
Earnest actions must be taken to treat and rehabilitate those drug addicts, while offering them skills through training, to enable them to make a living after being treated, and return to society as functioning, contributing members," the prime minister said.
To achieve such goals, the prime minister said there was a need to improve the existing drug rehabilitation centers by upgrading professional competence of their staff and medical doctors working at the centers along with providing more funds, vehicles and equipment to ensure the centers function effectively.
Prime Minister Thongloun stated that the Lao People's Revolutionary Party and the government have attached great importance to preventing and addressing addictive drug abuse as important tasks over the past years. The government has carried out campaigns to make people, notably youngsters, aware of the dangers of addictive drugs.
A number of addicts have been rehabilitated and treated, while those ex-opium and ex-marijuana growers have benefited from alternative incoming-generating activities. Traffickers, meanwhile, have faced measured and penalties in line with law.
Notably this year, Prime Minister Thongloun said security officers in collaboration with the relevant sectors had detained some alleged drug lords and prosecuted them.
In 2016, Lao police solved 2,508 drug cases, and arrested 3,740 people, including 558 women, according to the Drug Prevention and Control Department of the Lao Ministry of Public Security. Among those arrested were 74 foreigners.
During the past year, Lao police also seized more than 1,869 kg of amphetamine, 188 kg of heroin, 425 kg of cannabis, 144 kg of crystal methamphetamine, among others.
The Lao National Commission for Drug Control and Supervision said that Laos has again become a significant producer of opium, while drug use, in particular the use of amphetamine-type substances (ATS), known as yabaa, appears to be on the rise.