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Cablegate: 2007-2008 International Narcotics Control Strategy

VZCZCXYZ0004
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHVN #0839/01 3190928
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 150928Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY VIENTIANE
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 1641

UNCLAS VIENTIANE 000839

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR INL INCSR COORDINATOR JOHN LYLE
DEPT ALSO FOR INL/AAE - CHARLES BOULDIN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SNAR LA
SUBJECT: 2007-2008 INTERNATIONAL NARCOTICS CONTROL STRATEGY
REPORT - PART I - LAOS

REF: STATE 136782

1.(U) As requested by the Department's telegram under
reference, this message transmits Embassy Vientiane's draft
of part I of the 2007-2008 INCSR for Laos. As noted para 7
reftel, advance in the due date for this report to November 5
has made it impractical for post to obtain and include
complete statistics from the host government for such
activities as drug law enforcement during the year. Post
will make every effort to secure the most complete available
statistics and transmit them to update this draft no later
than February 1, 2008.

2. BEGIN TEXT: LAOS

I. Summary

Laos made tremendous progress in reducing opium cultivation
between 2000 and 2007, and estimates by the USG and UNODC of
poppy cultivation in 2007 were at the lowest levels ever.
However, the momentum of this effort may be slowing, and
gains remain precarious. Thousands of former poppy growers
who have yet to receive alternative development assistance
create a substantial potential for a renewal of poppy
production. Trafficking in illegal drugs and controlled
chemicals continues unabated throughout the country. Both
awareness programs and treatment capacity targeting abuse of
methamphetamines expanded during 2007, but remain
insufficient to respond to the very high level of
methamphetamine abuse which now affects virtually every
socio-economic level of Lao society. Law enforcement
capacity is woefully inadequate, and the inability to
establish an effective deterrent to regional trafficking
organizations makes Laos a transit route of choice for
Southeast Asian heroin, amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS),
and precursor chemicals en route to other nations in the
region. The combination of weak law enforcement, a central
geographic location, and new highways and river crossings
connecting China, Thailand and Vietnam will be likely to
exacerbate this already troubling transit situation. Laos
became party to the 1988 United Nations Convention Against
Illicit Traffic in Drugs in 2004.

II. Status of Country

In 2007, the Government of Laos continued its battle to
eliminate cultivation of opium, with continuing but
diminishing assistance from international donors. Donors
largely sought primarily to alleviate rural poverty, and
derivatively to reduce cultivation of illegal drugs. High
unprocessed opium prices, driven by a reduction in supply and
a remaining population of opium addicts estimated at 8-10,000
or more, frustrated efforts to completely end poppy
cultivation. Inhabitants of many villages in former opium
growing regions face increasingly desperate circumstances.
Many former poppy growers, finding themselves without
assistance they were told they could expect, face severe food
security problems. These circumstances create significant
incentives for resumption of poppy cultivation by growers and
communities that had abandoned it. Only the provision of
adequate medium- to long-term agricultural and economic
assistance will enable the Laotian authorities to completely
and sustainably eliminate opium cultivation.

Methamphetamine and similar stimulants constitute the
greatest current drug abuse problem in Laos. The abuse of
methamphetamines, once confined primarily to urban youth, is
becoming more common among agricultural workers in highland
areas, and has had some visible impact on virtually every
socio-economic group in Laos. The scope of this problem has
overwhelmed the country's limited capacities to enforce laws
against sale and abuse of illegal drugs, and to provide
effective treatment to addicts. Methamphetamine in Laos is
largely consumed in tablet form, but drug abuse treatment
centers report admission of a growing number of users of
injected amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS). Continued
emphasis on drug abuse prevention through comprehensive drug
awareness programs, and greatly increased capacity to provide
effective treatment to addicts, are both essential to control
the growth in domestic demand for ATS.

Heroin abuse in Laos, once limited to foreign workers and
tourists, has emerged as a potentially serious problem in
highland areas bordering Vietnam. Injected heroin is
replacing smoked opium as the preferred method for illegal
drug abuse in some ethnic minority communities, bringing with
it an attendant potential for increased transmission of
HIV/AIDS, hepatitis or other blood-borne diseases. The
Laotian government is working to develop a treatment capacity
to address this new problem, but at present, there is only

one facility in Laos which has a capability marginally to
address the problem of heroin abuse.

Laos occupies a strategic geographic position in the center
of mainland Southeast Asia. It contends with long, remote
and geographically difficult borders which are very difficult
to effectively control. Illicit drugs produced in Burma and
precursor chemicals diverted from China are trafficked
through landlocked Laos to Thailand and Vietnam, and from
major ports in those countries to other nations in the
region. Recently completed sections of the Kunming-Bangkok
Highway in northwestern Laos, and the Danang-Bangkok Highway
in southern Laos, have further aggravated this problem, as
new high-speed truck routes overwhelm limited existing border
control capacity. Enhanced law enforcement and border
control, and more effective regional cooperation, could
assist in ameliorating this problem, but will require
substantial investment in Laos and its neighboring countries.
Laos has become a significant transit area for illegal drugs
and controlled precursor chemicals being trafficked by
multinational criminal organizations throughout the region.

III. Country Actions against Drugs in 2007

Policy Initiatives. Laos did not introduce any significant
new drug control policy initiatives in 2007. The Lao
government instead emphasized implementing existing policies,
including its policy commitment to complete elimination of
opium cultivation, and on securing sufficient support from
international donors to make drug control policies effective
in practice.

Law Enforcement Efforts. Laos' law enforcement and criminal
justice institutions remain inadequate to deal effectively
with the problems created by domestic sale and abuse of
illegal drugs and international trafficking in drugs,
chemical precursors and other contraband. Laos does not
currently possess means to accurately assess the extent of
production, transit or distribution of ATS or its precursors.
There has been an increase in reported seizures of ATS
moving in transit through Laos to neighboring countries.
Methamphetamine addiction and related crime in Laos have
grown rapidly.

Laos' principal narcotics law enforcement offices are Counter
Narcotics Units (CNU's), the first of which was created in
1994 and which now exist as elements of provincial police in
most provinces. The CNU's, however, remain generally
understaffed, poorly equipped, and with personnel
inadequately trained and experienced to deal with the drug
law enforcement environment in Laos. CNU's in most provinces
generally number fewer than 15 officers, who are responsible
for patrolling thousands of square kilometers of rugged rural
terrain. This limited law enforcement presence in rural
areas creates an obvious vulnerability to establishment of
clandestine drug production or processing activities by
regional organizations seeking new locations, although it
cannot be confirmed that this has yet actually happened.
Assistance provided by the USG, UNODC, South Korea and China
has mitigated equipment and training deficiencies to some
extent, but prosecutions that do occur almost exclusively
involve street-level drug pushers or low-level couriers. As
in many developing countries, Lao drug enforcement and
criminal justice institutions have demonstrated a continuing
serious inability to investigate and develop prosecutable
cases against significant drug traffickers without external
assistance, and Lao authorities have generally pursued such
major cases only under international pressure. Laos is
preparing new criminal laws that would provide an enhanced
legal basis for seizure of illegal assets. At present,
prosecutors lack legal means to pursue assets of convicted
drug traffickers unless such assets were the instruments of
the drug trafficking offense. Extrajudicial asset seizures
reportedly may occur in some cases.

Laos did not make significant progress in disrupting domestic
distribution of illegal drugs in 2007. There is no reliable
estimate of illegal sales on a national basis, but secondary
information, such as increasing property crime, the emergence
of youth gangs, growing methamphetamine addiction and the
emergence of heroin addiction among Lao and ethnic minority
groups, all suggest that trafficking in drugs for internal
sale and abuse in Laos is increasing. Individuals or
small-scale merchants undertake the majority of street-level
methamphetamine sales. Criminal gangs involved in drug
trafficking across the Lao-Vietnamese border, especially
gangs that involve ethnic minority groups represented on both
sides of the border, constitute a particular problem for Lao
law enforcement. Such cross-border gangs now reportedly play
a leading role in the significant expansion of injected

heroin use in northern Laos, and in the cultivation of
marijuana for export in the central province of Bolikhamxai.

Opium distribution is now relatively limited. Net production
within Laos has diminished below estimated consumption
levels, making Laos now probably a net importer of
unprocessed opium. The majority of opium addicts still
reside in households or villages that produce, or used to
produce, opium poppy. There is some opium distribution
between villages, especially as remaining opium cultivation
is displaced to more distant and remote locations. Despite
progress made by the Lao government in reducing the number of
opium addicts, Laos continues to suffer from one of the
highest opium addiction rates in the world.

Corruption. Corruption in the Lao People's Democratic
Republic (PDR), long present in many forms, may be increasing
as the flow of illicit drugs and precursors in and through
Laos grows. Lao civil service pay is inadequate, and persons
able to exploit official position to personal advantage,
particularly police and customs officials, can augment their
salaries through corruption. This is especially true in
areas distant from central government oversight. Lao law
explicitly prohibits official corruption, and some officials
have been removed from office, and/or prosecuted, for corrupt
acts. The GOL has made fighting corruption one of its
declared policy priorities, and has made serious efforts to
do this, but such efforts confront entrenched corruption
throughout much of the government bureaucracy. As a matter
of government policy, Laos strongly opposes the illicit
production or distribution of narcotic drugs, psychotropic or
other controlled substances, and the laundering of the
proceeds of illegal drug transactions. No senior official of
the Government of Laos is known to engage in, encourage, or
facilitate the illicit production or distribution of illegal
drugs or substances, or the laundering of proceeds of illegal
drug transactions. The Government of Laos signed the United
Nations Convention Against Corruption in December 2003, but
has not yet ratified that Convention.

Agreements and Treaties. The USG signed initial agreements
to provide international narcotics control assistance in Laos
in 1990, and has signed further Letters of Agreement (LOAs)
to provide additional assistance to projects for Crop
Control, Drug Demand Reduction, and Law Enforcement
Cooperation annually since then. Laos has no bilateral
extradition or mutual legal assistance agreements with the
United States. During 2007, Laos delivered no suspects or
fugitives on drug offenses to the United States under any
formal or informal arrangement.

Laos acceded to the United Nations Convention Against Illicit
Trafficking in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances in
December 2004. It has made substantial progress in the
control of opium cultivation, production and addiction, but
has not yet achieved all objectives of this 1988 UN
Convention. Laos is party to the 1961 Single Convention on
Narcotic Drugs, but is not yet party to the 1972 Amending
Protocol to the Single Convention. Laos acceded to the 1971
United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances in 1997.
Laos acceded to the UN Convention Against Transnational
Organized Crime and its protocols in 2003, and signed the UN
Convention Against Corruption in December 2003 but has not
yet ratified it. GOL officials consult frequently with UNODC
on narcotics control issues and strategy, and UNODC continues
to support a number of crop control, demand reduction and law
enforcement programs.

Laos has legal assistance agreements with China, Thailand,
Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma and Indonesia. Lao membership in
ASEAN and APEC has increased the number of bilateral and
multilateral legal exchanges for Laos since 2000, and
training programs supported by several international donors
are improving the capacity of the Ministry of Justice,
police, customs and immigration officials to cooperate with
counterparts in other countries. Laos has declared its
support for the ASEAN initiative to promote a drug-free
region by 2015. Laos has extradition treaties with China,
Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. The GOL has assisted in the
arrest and delivery of individuals to some of those nations,
but does not use formal extradition procedures in all cases.
Laos has participated in bilateral conferences with Thailand
on drug control cooperation, and cooperates with Thailand and
UNODC in measures to prevent drug trafficking along the
Mekong. Laos has met trilaterally on narcotics issues with
Vietnam and Cambodia, and participates in an occasional
regional consultative group on drug issues under UNODC
auspices which brings together officials from those four
countries, Burma and China.

Cultivation/Production. In 2007, Laos again made measurable
progress in further reducing opium poppy cultivation
Estimates of poppy cultivation in Laos by the UNODC (1500
hectares, down from 2500 hectares in 2006) and the USG (1100
hectares, down from 1700 hectares in 2006) stood at the
lowest level since such estimates were first prepared in the
1980's. The remaining poppy cultivation observed in these
surveys was encountered in five northern provinces:
Phongsaly, Luang Namtha, Oudomxay, Luang Prabang and Huaphan.

Opium production, as estimated by UNODC, also declined from
2006, from an estimated 20 metric tonnes in 2006 to an
estimated 9.2 metric tonnes in 2007. UNODC reported that its
survey found a reported average price for opium in Laos of
$974/kilogram, nearly double the $550/kilogram reported in
2006. With the decline in estimated production and
increasing price, UNODC estimates that Laos has now become a
net importer of opium to supply its remaining population of
opium addicts. (USG survey estimate for opium production not
available to NAS Vientiane when INCSR initial draft was
prepared; INL please insert and correct narrative if
necessary.)

Most opium produced in Laos is consumed domestically in
northern border areas, where raw and cooked opium is smoked
or eaten. The share of the opium product in Laos at this
time that is refined into heroin is thought to be very small
or nonexistent. Sustained high farm prices in growing areas
suggest that the supply of available opium is decreasing more
rapidly than the demand. Reportedly, increased prices for
opium were one of the factors that led to a notable spread in
injected heroin abuse among ethnic minority groups resident
in poppy-growing border areas during 2007.

The USG Crop Control projects implemented in Laos from 1990
to date have not employed chemical herbicides or any other
form of compulsory eradication of opium poppy. The Embassy
has received some reports, particularly in recent years, that
some compulsory eradication of opium poppy has been employed
in some localities, at the discretion of local officials.
Within the areas of the Lao-American Projects for opium poppy
reduction in Houaphan, Phongsaly and Luang Prabang, growers
themselves, or officials of their villages, carried out
eradication of poppy as a condition of written agreements
between villages and GOL authorities that villages would
cease production of opium. In recent years, and particularly
since it declared Laos to be formally opium-free in 2006 (a
policy assertion it justifies by arguing that net eradication
which GOL officials carry out reduces harvestable cultivation
to insignificant levels), the GOL has stated that it may
employ compulsory poppy eradication in selected areas where
alternative development programs are not available, or have
not by themselves sufficed to reduce and eliminate poppy
cultivation. The GOL reported to UNODC that its officials
eradicated a total of 779 hectares of poppy in 2007.

Despite the positive results of the 2007 opium crop survey,
the UNODC Resident Representative in Laos noted in announcing
those results that the situation of the farm population that
has depended primarily or exclusively on poppy cultivation
remains "precarious" and that "the current reduction in
cultivation is dependent on the existence and creation of
appropriate and sustainable livelihood opportunities."
However, UNODC reports that international donor support for
such alternative development programs continues to diminish.
UNODC has repored that many former opium growers survived the
loss of income from opium only by consuming their savings,
generally in the form of livestock. Such savings, where they
existed, are now depleted. The Embassy has received frequent
reports from the World Food Program of serious food security
concerns among rural populations, but the WFP and other
donors also report diminishing international resources
available for food security assistance. Villages and farming
groups who stopped growing poppy because they believed
promises from their government or international donors of
support for alternative livelihoods find promises without
prospects an indigestible meal. Continued diminution in
medium-term international support for alternative livelihoods
among populations previously dependent on poppy cultivation
creates a substantial continuing risk that 2008 and future
years will be characterized by resumption of poppy
cultivation by farm populations that correctly perceive no
other remaining alternative but to starve.

After several years in which cannabis cultivation and
reported seizures diminished, there now again appears to be
substantial "contract" cannabis production in central Laos,
as evidenced by significant recent seizures in that region.
Continuing use of cannabis as a traditional food seasoning in
some localities complicates attempts to eradicate this crop.


Drug Flow/Transit. Laos' highly porous borders are dominated
by the Mekong River and remote mountainous regions. This
terrain is notoriously difficult to control, and is permeable
to trafficking of illicit drugs or other contraband, although
there are no reliable estimates of the possible volume of
such flows. An increase in the number and size of seizures
in neighboring countries of drugs that reportedly passed in
transit through Laos suggests an increasing transit problem.
Illegal drug flows include methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana
and precursor chemicals destined for other countries in the
region, as well as methamphetamine and other drugs to be
distributed and sold for consumption in Laos. Illicit drugs
that have been reported found in transit to the United States
have included very limited quantities of unrefined opium and
local formulations of methamphetamine.

New regional transportation infrastructure, trade agreements,
and special economic zones intended to facilitate regional
trade and development may inadvertently also benefit
transnational criminal trafficking organizations. The
opening of two new transit arteries in Southeast Asia that
pass through Laos, one a continuous paved highway running
from Da Nang in central Vietnam to Bangkok, and another from
Kunming, China to Bangkok, have greatly complicated the
already difficult challenge posed by illicit transit of drugs
or other contraband for Lao law enforcement and border
control agencies. Truck-borne cargo containers transit Laos
from the Chinese border at Boten to the Thai border at
Houayxai in six hours, and the trip from Lao Bao, Vietnam,
through southern Laos to Mukdahan, Thailand takes only four
hours. There are also indications of continued drug and
chemical smuggling on the Mekong River. Laos is not a
principal destination for the majority of cargo that transits
its territory, but the volume of traffic overwhelms Laos'
limited capacity for border control, and becomes a continuing
problem for Laos' geographic neighbors.

In addition to increased volume, new bilateral and regional
trade agreements will also probably result in proportionally
fewer cargo inspections and a greater reliance on
intelligence to identify suspect shipments of drugs or other
contraband. Laos, which has very limited capabilities of
this nature, will have to rely substantially on regional
cooperation with its neighbors to effectively impede
trafficking in illegal drugs or other contraband. While
clearly beneficial for legitimate trade, the potential for
abuse of these developing arrangements for illicit
trafficking in drugs or other contraband is considerable.
Illicit trafficking in drugs may also be growing on less
developed routes; there have been unconfirmed reports that
heroin destined for southern Vietnam may now be moving along
sections of the former Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos.

There is no reliable information on the transportation or
financing of illicit drugs in Laos. Transit costs are low,
and anecdotal evidence suggests that some trafficking
organizations formerly involved with opium may now be
shifting to moving and marketing methamphetamine, which is
easier to move and has a growing market in Laos. There have
been some reports that individuals or organizations that
traffic in drugs are also involved in legitimate businesses.

Domestic Programs. Laos made limited advances during 2007 in
reducing the demand for and consumption of illicit drugs.
The most significant single new development was the opening
of a new 100-bed drug addiction treatment facility in Udomxai
Province, built with funds from China. Brunei funded
construction of two smaller drug abuse treatment facilities
in Sayabouri, which opened in January 2007. The United
States supported the renovation of the women's rehabilitation
facility at the Somsagna treatment center on the outskirts of
Vientiane, which can house up to 64 female patients. The
U.S. is also preparing to finance construction of a new
smaller center in Vientiane Province about 70 kilometers from
the capital, which is scheduled for completion in 2008.
Despite this augmentation of Laos' treatment capacity, the
capacity of existing facilities remains well short of even
the most optimistic estimates of the numbers in Laos addicted
to methamphetamine or other illegal drugs. Available
evidence suggests that many untreated addicts turn to other
crime as a means to support their addiction. Most existing
treatment facilities are notably deficient in staff
proficiency and effective vocational training. The national
treatment center at Somsagna has reported guardedly hopeful
results, but limited marketable post-release skills have left
many addicts treated at other facilities vulnerable to
recidivism. The U.S. is providing assistance to treatment
facilities throughout Laos to enhance their capabilities to
offer effective post-release vocational preparation. In

2008, the GOL will undertake a new nationwide drug awareness
program and media campaign with U.S. support.

Estimates by the GOL in 2007 indicate that the number of
remaining opium addicts has stabilized at approximately 8000,
after years of steady decline. However, many opium addicts
may remain unreported, either because they reside in
extremely remote areas, or because they wish to conceal their
addiction, or both. Significant impediments to the effective
treatment of all opium addicts include the ill health of many
elderly opium users, the isolated location of some addict
populations, and the lack of sufficient rural health care
infrastructure to displace traditional medicinal use of
illegal opium, which often serves as the entrance to
addiction. Detoxification of opium addicts will probably
become increasingly difficult as their numbers diminish,
since those remaining are likely to be the most resistant to
treatment. There are currently no verifiable statistics on
post-detoxification recidivism, and follow-on rehabilitation
is scanty. Moreover, during 2007 a disturbing new
development became visible as a significant number of former
opium users among ethnic minorities living on the border with
Vietnam reported having turned from opium to abuse of
injected heroin. The GOL hopes to ultimately treat all
remaining opium addicts, since ending opium addiction and
thus eliminating the market for domestic consumption of opium
is critical to complete and sustainable elimination of
cultivation of opium poppy.

IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs

Policy Initiatives. The United States continues to be a
substantial, albeit diminished, donor of drug control
assistance to Laos, although other donors (primarily European
but now including some other Asian countries as well) have
become the largest remaining contributors to alternative
development programs for opium poppy crop reduction. The
Lao-American Opium Crop Control Projects in Phongsaly and
Luang Prabang Provinces, which delivered integrated rural
development assistance to reduce poppy cultivation, were
dissolved in December 2007. The limited remaining assistance
in the USG Crop Control project will in 2008 be delivered to
more direct and limited village-based alternative livelihood
programs, designed to provide assistance to hundreds of
former opium growing communities that have not yet received
such assistance. The U.S. cooperates closely with
international organizations such as UNODC and the World Food
Program in areas where serious economic distress in farming
communities makes resumption of opium cultivation a
continuing significant possibility.

Bilateral Cooperation. Since U.S. drug control assistance to
Laos began in 1990, the U.S. has provided somewhat over
$38-million, which has been employed primarily to support the
successful, multi-year effort that has reduced poppy
cultivation in Laos to a historically low level. During
2007, with the established Lao-American Projects at a reduced
level of activity, the NAS in Vientiane cooperated closely in
Crop Control and Demand Reduction projects with the Programme
Facilitation Unit (PFU), an element of the Lao National
Commission on Drug Control and Supervision primarily
responsible for implementing alternative development and
opium addict detoxification. U.S. funds for drug demand
reduction activities support enhancements to methamphetamine
abuse treatment centers including vocational training, and a
variety of national drug awareness and prevention programs.
Limited U.S. law enforcement assistance funds support very
limited operational costs, training and equipment for Counter
Narcotics Units (CNU's) and the Lao Customs Department.
These limited funds are complemented by continuing regular
Lao participation in regional training opportunities offered
by the U.S. and Thailand at the International Law Enforcement
Academy in Bangkok. Bilateral cooperation in drug law
enforcement improved somewhat in 2007, with DEA receiving
drug samples from the GOL for the first time since 2005.

The Road Ahead. Laos' two-decade effort to sustainably
eliminate opium poppy cultivation has reached an advanced
stage, but as noted by GOL, UNODC and third country officials
-- and large numbers of Lao farmers -- it is by no means
over. If significant near-term emergency food security
support, and medium- to long-term assistance to establish
viable alternative livelihoods, is not delivered in 2008 and
the coming few years, it is very probable that the decline in
poppy cultivation observed in 2007 will be the last for many
years. If former poppy growers revert to opium cultivation,
persuading them a second time to stop will be far more
difficult.

Laos does not have the law enforcement and criminal justice

capabilities and resources necessary to prevent large-scale
trafficking of methamphetamine and other illicit drugs and
contraband through Laos, nor the distribution, sale and abuse
of illegal drugs among the Lao people. For this reason, the
GOL will be compelled to rely for its immediate future on
drug demand reduction measures for drug abuse prevention and
treatment to respond to its epidemic of illegal drug abuse.
Existing programs to educate youth and other vulnerable
groups on the dangers of addiction must be enlarged and
reinforced, and drug abuse treatment availability must be
greatly further enhanced. Better Lao integration in regional
anti-trafficking initiatives, and a substantially enhanced
investment in law enforcement and criminal justice
institutions, are essential for Laos to respond effectively
to regional and international trafficking and organized crime.

V. Statistical Tables

(As noted above, post will provide best available information
to update statistical tables for Laos as soon as possible
after the end of 2007, and in any case before the INL
deadline of February 1, 2008.)

VI. Chemical Control Issues

As party to the 1988 UN Convention, Laos is obliged to
establish controls on the 23 precursor and essential
chemicals identified under Article 12 of that Convention. In
practice, Laos' laws to implement this obligation are weak,
and the institutional capability of its government to
implement those laws is highly limited. Responsibility for
regulating precursor and essential chemicals lies with the
Food and Drug Administration of the Ministry of Public
Health. In January 2005, that agency issued a decree
imposing legal controls on 35 chemicals, including all of
those which the 1988 Convention requries be subject to
regulation. The Health Ministry is also responsible to issue
licenses for the legal importation of very limited quantities
of pseudoephedrine or ephedrine which are used (by
government-owned pharmaceutical plants) for preparation of
cold medications, which are available for sale in pharmacies
without prescription. (The Ministry is currently
considering, but has not yet approved, one application for
importation of 25 kilograms of pseudoephedrine by a GOL-owned
pharmaceutical plant.) Iniitally, officials of the Food and
Drug office were assigned at major international entry points
to Laos, but due to shortage of personnel and conflicting
requirements, the Health Ministry withdrew these staff
members and now conducts inspections of imported chemicals
only upon rquest to visit an importer's warehouse or storage
facility. The Ministry is not known to conduct any end-use
inspection of any licensed imports or uses. There are no
other known significant licit imports of precursor chemicals,
and no known domestic manufacturing capacity for them in Laos.

Responsibility for enforcement of laws that prohibit the
unlicensed importation, sale or use of controlled chemicals
rests formally with the Lao Customs Service and the national
police. As a practical matter, there appears to be
relatively little communication between these law enforcement
agencies and the Health Ministry office responsible for
regulation. There have been occasional seizures in Laos of
controlled chemicals, most frequently ephedrine or
pseudoephedrine, but also less frequently of heroin
processing chemicals. For the most part, such seized
chemicals have been thought to be in transit between China
and Burma or Thailand. There has been no recent evidence of
any significant manufacture of amphetamine-type stimulants in
Laos, and no recent evidence of heroin processing in the
country.

Laos, along with Burma, Cambodia, China, Thailand and
Vietnam, has for several years participated in a regional
project and action plan sponsored by the UNODC Regional
Office for Asia and the Pacific, one of whose goals is to
enhance the effectiveness of controls on precursor and
essential chemicals. Most activities under this project have
concentrated on training for law enforcement, border and
regulatory officials in the recognition and management of
controlled chemicals, and on providing UNODC advice and
assistance to improve participating nations' chemical control
laws. Since 2004, Laos has participated with Thailand in an
arrangement for periodic joint patrolling of one part of the
countries' Mekong River border, one of whose stated goals is
to deter smuggling of controlled chemicals. It is not known
whether these activities have had any positive results.

end text.

HUSO

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