Mr. Soubanh Sritthirath, Minister to the President's Office and chairman of the Lao National Commission on Drug Control and Supervision, says the new anti-drug master plan will be completed soon and ready for implementation by October, when the 2008-09 fiscal year begins.
The new plan, aiming at making Laos completely drug-free by 2015, puts emphasis on nine major areas for implementation including data gathering, trend analysis, alternative development, demand reduction, public relations campaign to raise public awareness, law enforcement and international cooperation.
Lao authorities hope the international community will continue to cooperate and assist them by providing adequate funding. Officials maintain they will need approximately 44 million dollars to effectively implement the new master plan.
Nevertheless, they acknowledge that the increasing trend in drug consumption in Laos will continue, especially among former opium addicts and Lao youths whose usage of methamphetamines is on the rise.
Laos declared itself opium-free in early 2006. But now officials say some 1,100 villages in nine northern provinces have gone back to growing opium because the government's poverty reduction efforts have not reached those areas, so the villagers have not received the benefits promised them. As a result, a large number of former addicts have gone back to smoking opium again.
Official statistics show there are currently more than 12,000 drugs addicts, of which 7,740 are those who had quit and received treatment.
Listen to Songrit's report for more details in Lao.