The UNODC representative in Laos says that Lao drug addicts spend over $380 million on drugs last year, while Lao authorities admit that Lao youths have been increasingly involved with drug trafficking and crimes.
UNODC Country Representative Leik Boonwat reaffirms that Laos still remains one of the countries facing serious drug addiction problem, one that is on a rising trend due to the country's location which has turned it into both a production source and a transit point, and now a consumption point as well.
Despite its announcement of being finally drug-free in 2006, illicit opium poppy cultivation still covers an area of approximately 1,500 hectares in the country, causing many addicts to return to smoking opium again.
As a transit point for drugs trafficked from the Golden Triangle area to other countries, Laos has an increasingly high number of youth addicted to drugs, especially "yabaa" - literally "crazy drug" in Lao - one of the amphetamine-type substances (ATS).
Mr. Boonwat estimated that over 40,000 Lao youths are currently addicted to "yabaa," while more than 12,000 Hmongs or highlanders are addicted to opium. And these addicts spent over $380 million on drugs in 2009, a figure that is expected to increase.
Meanwhile, high ranking officials of the Lao Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare acknowledged that the fact that more and more young Lao, especially those under 18, have been addicted to drugs, has led to more crimes committed by Lao youths as these young people lack educational and employment opportunities.
For example, while12,000 young men and women received Bachelor’s degrees or advanced vocational diplomas in the 2008-2009 academic year, they had difficulty finding jobs because Lao and foreign companies were reluctant to hire them. The companies argue that these young people often do not meet their requirements for skilled and experienced workers.
Listen to Songrit's report for more details in Lao