The Government of Laos is continuing its fight against illegal drug production, use, and trafficking, and the United States lending its support.
United States Ambassador to Laos Ravic Huso recently signed an amendment to the Letter of Agreement on behalf of the U.S. for bilateral cooperation in support of counter narcotics and law enforcement. The ceremony took place in Vientiane. Signing on behalf of the Laotian government was Minister Soubanh Srithirath Minister to the President's Office and Chair of the Lao National Committee for Drug Control and Supervision.
The letter committed $650,000 from the United States Government for counter narcotics and law enforcement for 2010. These programs will be administered by the U.S. Embassy Law Enforcement and Narcotics Section.
The funds provided by the Letter of Agreement will assist the Government of Laos in reducing the demand for amphetamine type stimulants and other illegal drugs and provide for the treatment, rehabilitation, and after-care of addicts. The Letter of Agreement also provides support for the training and equipping of Lao law enforcement, customs, and criminal justice system officials.
In addition, it provides some assistance to further reduce opium cultivation, provide alternative crops and income substitutes, and rehabilitate opium addicts. The focus of these efforts will on Phong Saly and Houaphan provinces.
In its Drug Control Strategy report, released earlier this year, the U.S. Department of State said that Laos "made tremendous progress in reducing opium poppy cultivation between 2000 and 2008," but saw a increase in cultivation during 2008 and 2009. It noted that methamphetamine abuse is increasing and Laos is an important transit route for Southeast Asian heroin and amphetamine-type stimulants and precursor chemicals. This transit drug trade includes criminal gangs with links in Africa, Latin America, Europe, and the United States, as well as other parts of Asia.
Narcotics trafficking is an international threat and requires international cooperation. For its part the United States is committed to working with Laos and other international partners to apply the rule of law to drug traffickers.