Lao authorities say they need over 44 million dollars in foreign assistance to fund development projects for the next three years or until 2010, aimed at teaching former opium farmers alternative occupation or to grow alternative crops so that Laos will be completely opium-free.
Although Laos declared itself opium-free in 2006, officials say some farmers have gone back to growing opium because occupational development projects have not reached their areas. Laos' drug czar Soubanh Sraritthirath, head of the National Commission on Drug Control and Prevention, asserts poverty is the main reason. Another factor is the demand for opium because there are still more than 12,000 opium addicts in the country. What is more serious, he says, is that Laos is a transit point for illegal drugs - especially methamphetamines - coming out of the Golden Triangle, in the area where Laos, Thailand, and Burma share borders.
The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime Prevention reports that some 1,500 hectares in northern Laos are still under opium cultivation, and that more than 40,000 Lao youths are using Yah Bah or methamphetamines.
Listen to our Laos Today report for details in Lao.