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Anti-drug trafficking efforts highlighted on control group’s bridge visit

Members of the Illicit Drug Control Sector Working Group (IDSWG) visited the Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge in Vientiane last week to better understand the role of Lao Customs and Immigration officials in the fight against drug trafficking.
The event was attended by Deputy Head of Office of the Lao National Commission for Drug Control and Supervision, Mr Phoutsavath Sounthala, Australian Ambassador to Laos Mr Jean-Bernard Carrasco, and other foreign diplomats.
The IDSWG contributes to Laos’ National Round Table Process and constitutes the sectoral framework for donor coordination in the counter-narcotics Sector.

The Working Group is chaired by the Lao National Commission on Drug Control and Supervision and co-chaired by the Mini Dublin Group Chair (Australia or Japan on a yearly rotational basis) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
UNODC’s most recent data suggests that the total area under opium poppy cultivation in 2015 was 5,900 hectares. Significant quantities of opiates, amphetamine-type substances and precursors continue to be trafficked through Laos to neighbouring countries.
In response to these challenges, Laos’ Drug Control Master Plan for the period 2016 to 2020 outlines numerous priority areas including the formulation and improvement of legal instruments concerning narcotic problems; data/information collection and analysis; and education/training/dissemination of the laws and adverse consequences of drug abuse.
Other priorities include treatment and vocational training for drug addicts; alternative development, replacing opium poppy and cannabis cultivation; law enforcement; precursor control, analysis and testing of drug use; international cooperation; and streamlining the organisational machinery of the Lao National Commission for Drug Control and Supervision at central and local levels.
The visit to the Friendship Bridge, organised by the Lao National Commission for Drug Control and Supervision and the Australian Embassy in Vientiane, as co-chair of the 2019 IDSWG, was an opportunity for representatives of the diplomatic corps, UNODC and Lao government agencies to observe the work carried out to intercept illicit drugs at this strategic border crossing with Thailand.
Participants witnessed the work of a Container Control Unit and observed the processes applied by Lao Customs and Immigration officials to inspect and control the movement of goods and people. This is part of a global Container Control Programme jointly created by UNODC and the World Customs Organisation.
During the visit, Australian Ambassador to Laos Mr Jean-Bernard Carrasco said “As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the first Friendship Bridge, a gift of Australia to the people of Thailand and Laos, I am pleased that members of the IDSWG had an opportunity to witness the important work carried out every day by the Lao government, with support from the international community, to tackle the threats posed by illicit drugs in Laos.
This bridge is a symbol of the role infrastructure can play in connecting peoples and economies of the region, to help landlocked Laos achieve its ambition of becoming land-linked. But with increased connectivity comes unwanted challenges such as drug trafficking. Today’s visit is an important reminder of the sustained efforts required to collectively address these issues.”

By Times Reporters
(Latest Update July 15, 2019)

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