Cablegate: Majors List Certification Proceedures for Laos Fy


DE RUEHVN #0483/01 1590643
P 080643Z JUN 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. STATE 072494


1. (SBU) Summary. While Laos continues to be a major
producer of narcotics, it reduced opium production by
approximately 69% between 2005 and 2006 and has achieved a
96% decline in overall opium cultivation from its recorded
peak in 1989. Production is currently estimated to be below
domestic consumption, so opium is exported from Laos in very
limited quantities. Methamphetamine, imported from Burma, is
now the largest illicit drug problem in Laos. A dearth of law
enforcement capacity has allowed Laos to become a major
illicit drug transit nation. The Government of Laos (GOL) is
committed to complete elimination of opium cultivation and
supports programs to combat methamphetamine abuse, but
remains reliant on donor support to sustain these efforts.

2. (U) Certification Report card. The following evaluation
is based upon specific criteria established in the 2006
Letters of Agreement (LOA) between the GOL and the USG on
crop control, demand reduction, and law enforcement.

A. Crop Control

1) (U) The USG asked the GOL to reduce opium cultivation
below 2000 hectares.

--(U) Opium Cultivation declined 69 % to 1700 hectares
between 2005 and 2006.

2) (U) The USG asked the GOL to reduce the number of opium
addicts to below 5,000.

-- (SBU) The GOL reported that it has approximately 7,700
opium addicts. GOL efforts to sustain opium detoxification
programs have been hampered by limited resources as the U.S.
INCLE crop control funds that support opium detoxification
declined by 85% from 2001 to 2006. NAS Vientiane is working
with the Lao National Commission for Drug Control and
Supervision (LCDC) and the United Nations Office for Drugs
and Crime Representative (UNODC) in Vientiane to restore
momentum to this effort.

B. Demand Reduction

1) (SBU) The United States asked Laos to reduce
methamphetamine abuse in Savannakhet Province, where a U.S.
funded treatment facility opened in 2006, by 3%.
Unfortunately, the funding currently available to Provincial
Committees for Drug Control (PCDC) throughout Laos, including
Savannakhet, is insufficient to support an accurate
assessment of methamphetamine addiction; while the PCDCs
have tabulated statistics, these cannot yet be considered
reliable. NAS Vientiane's observations indicate that this
goal has not yet been achieved in Savannakhet or other
provinces. While Savannakhet is working earnestly if
austerely to promote drug education, the new U.S. funded
provincial treatment center remains only partially
operational. There are two key reasons for this: the
center's staff is insufficiently trained, and Savannakhet
Province underestimated the total operational cost for the
center. NAS Vientiane is working with LCDC to enhance drug
education in Savannakhet (as well as other provinces) and
bring the Savannakhet addiction treatment center into full

2) (SBU) The United States asked Laos to sustain recidivism
among former drug addicts below 25%. The Somsagna Treatment
Center in Vientiane, Laos' largest addiction treatment center
and the only facility with both reliable means of evaluation
and a statistically significant patient base, reports less
than 3% recidivism for FY 2006 and the first months of FY
2007. This has not been independently verified.

C. Law Enforcement.

1) (U) The United States asked Laos to establish a credible
deterrent to drug traffickers and a barrier to the
importation of narcotics and amphetamines into Laos. More
specifically the United States asked the GOL to increase the
quantity of drugs seized and the number of drug-related
arrests in Luang Nam Tha, Bokeo, and Udomxai Provinces (the
Golden Triangle region) during 2007.

--(SBU) Complete statistics are not yet available for 2007.
Drug seizures and arrests declined in these provinces from
2005 to 2006, but NAS assesses that this was most likely the
consequence of drug trafficking organizations shifting routes
and adjusting methods in response to attempts at interdiction
by the GOL. NAS Vientiane will work closely with LCDC to

further enhance this interdiction capability to the extent
possible with available funding.

D. Illicit drug transit.

1) (SBU) Laos is now a major drug transit country. While
the GOL's interdiction efforts in the Golden Triangle Region
appear to be paying some dividends, the overall illicit
transit situation is bleak. Narcotics, amphetamine type
stimulants (ATS), and chemical precursors flow readily
through Laos to China, Thailand, Vietnam, and throughout
ASEAN. Laos has clearly become the transit route of choice
in mainland Southeast Asia and is the lowest risk option for
illicit drug traffickers moving shipments to larger markets.

2) (SBU) The GOL is well aware of the transit problem and
eager to do something about it but currently lacks the law
enforcement capacity necessary to protect its borders against
better resourced trafficking organizations. The rapid
development of new transportation arteries that pass through
Laos, such as the Kunming China-Bangkok Thailand Highway, or
the East-West Economic Corridor from central Vietnam to the
Burmese-Thai border, threatens to completely overwhelm the
customs and police units tasked to control these high-speed
routes. New bilateral and regional trade agreements intended
to facilitate trade may also inadvertently facilitate
trafficking. This is an issue that Laos will not be able to
address without greater regional cooperation.

3. (SBU) Comment. Laos' efforts to combat illicit narcotics
and ATS are being frustrated not by lack of will but for want
of capacity and support. The GOL, including the Prime
Minister and especially LCDC, have repeatedly expressed the
desire to pursue counter narcotics, demand reduction, and
anti-trafficking projects aggressively. However, LCDC
currently has neither the budget nor sufficient donor support
to achieve the GOL's stated goals. End Comment.

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