Asian nations pledge to step up war on drugs

YANGON (AFP) - China and five Southeast Asian nations vowed on Thursday to boost cooperation in the fight against illegal drugs, which they warned posed a "significant threat" to the region.

The pledge came at the end of a meeting of ministers or representatives from Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam in the Myanmar capital Naypyidaw.

"Consumption and production of narcotic drugs continues to grow rapidly within the region and worldwide, constituting a significant threat to the East Asian region," according to a joint statement adopted at the meeting.

The countries agreed to tighten cross-border cooperation, step up alternative development programmes and share experience in drug use prevention, treatment and public awareness raising exercises.

The region has seen a surge in production of amphetamine-type stimulants in recent years.

Myanmar recently pushed back by five years its goal of eliminating drug production by 2014, following a rebound in poppy cultivation in the impoverished country, which is emerging from decades of military rule.

Myanmar is the world's second-largest opium producer after Afghanistan, and a major source of methamphetamine pills in the region, the United Nations said in a report in December.

Myanmar's drugs trade is closely linked to long-running insurgencies in remote areas bordering Thailand, Laos and China - known as the golden triangle - with rebels widely thought to use drug profits to fund operations.

As part of its reform drive, Myanmar's quasi-civilian government has reached tentative peace deals with most major armed ethnic groups.

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