How greatly must Laos suffer at the hands of drug traffickers? : Vientiane Times

Drug addicts receiving treatment at the Vientiane Municipality Treatment and Rehabilitation Hospital in Laos in 2009.
Drug addicts receiving treatment at the Vientiane Municipality Treatment and Rehabilitation Hospital in Laos in 2009. PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN FILE

(VIENTIANE TIMES/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) When considering the immense consequences narcotics use and trafficking have in relation to families, society and the whole nation, one would say the impact is uncountable.

Almost every day, local newspapers report about the apprehension of drug traffickers, while every so often they report the murder of innocent people such as women and children as a result of drug use, particularly amphetamines.

One example was reported on Oct 11 when a 33-year-old man used a knife to brutally kill his 10-year-old niece and 2-year-old nephew in Outhoumphon district, Savannakhet province in what was a horrific case.

Prior to losing all mental control, the man had been consuming a lot of amphetamines to increase his capacity to tap rubber without getting fatigued.

Before the incident happened, the man and his wife moved to seek employment at a rubber plantation farm but soon afterwards the overuse of drugs made him crazy and he could not sleep for two to three days.

The influence of drugs led the man to kill even his own niece and nephew in a grotesque fashion, leaving many cuts on their battered bodies.

This brutal murder sparked public outrage and people asked how many more innocent people have to be killed before something is done about the amphetamines problem?

Our country has already been damaged considerably by the drug, with many young people from every corner of Laos becoming addicted to amphetamines.

The consequences of using drugs are quite obvious - children don't go to school. Young people follow their friends in taking drugs so that they can be part of the group.

Many crimes including robbery, murder and other social ills are reported as a result of drug abuse.

Drug abuse also results in family breakdown and domestic violence after husbands have been taking amphetamines. The drug is not only destroying our children's lives but also undermining our labour force and the future of the nation.

It's critical to review our existing mechanisms in dealing with drug use and trafficking in order to define what more needs to be done.

For instance, authorities have established drug free villages, which represent 30 per cent of the country's total villages. The move aims to show that local authorities have successfully responded to the drug issue.

But it has been seen that drug use and trafficking continue in the so-called drug free villages. Perhaps we lack monitoring mechanisms to maintain the status the villages as drug free villages.

In Laos, village authorities play a significant role in helping the government to deal with drug issues because village officials are the ones who know better about their residents, their habits and their activities.

If village authorities carried out their duties properly, the drug-related issues will be resolved.

Of course, drugs are also a lucrative business. Traffickers are greedy and risk their lives to sell drugs to other people despite the fact their action is destroying their future and also that of the nation.

Amphetamine use and trafficking is widespread in Laos, with many cases involving authorities such as the police.

Minister of Public Security Brigadier General Somkeo Silavong responded to questions raised by the National Assembly (NA) members at the NA session held in July last year, saying that it was hard to address the drug problems in Laos as many drug dealers hired authorities to facilitate their business. They did not only hire police but also prosecutors and judges as well.

"Some high-ranking officials facilitate drug trafficking so it's hard to address the problem," he said, saying that the money to be made is big and this encourages people to commit crimes and violate the laws.

A standing member of the NA Prof Dr Phonethep Pholsena commented that the root of the problem was related to economic and poverty factors. In many countries, some high-ranking officials are also behind drug trafficking, he noted.

Prof Dr Phonethep said: "Drug use and trafficking is like a war that destroys our country and we need to know we can deal with it. I think we need to review our existing laws to identify what measures are needed."

One of the most significant features to note is that the law enforcement imposed on drug traffickers must be made fairly and properly with no regards to whether the traffickers are friends or relatives of authorities in charge.

All people in the whole country must take part in the fight against drug trafficking without saying that it's only the role of the government. Families have a big role to play, as do community members, by not turning a blind eye to what is going on in their villages.

Once the issue is properly addressed, our children can go to schools and have better and brighter futures which is what every right thinking person wants to see happen in the near term future.