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Xieng Khuang intensifies poppy eradication efforts

Xieng Khuang intensifies poppy eradication efforts

WEDNESDAY, January 27, 2016
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VIENTIANE - Authorities in Xieng Khuang province have intensified efforts to eliminate opium poppy cultivation, warning that people found growing the illegal crop will face penalties.

Provincial officials in charge of drug supervision and control said farmers had returned to cultivating the crop in recent years after the province was announced opium-free in 2006.
An order issued by provincial authorities, which is being published in the government's official gazette, instructed all district authorities to take action to inspect and instigate measures to suppress illegal cultivation and trade of the crop.
Locals are prohibited from processing poppies, and selling seedlings and all related products.
Those infringing the order will be re-educated, warned and even penalised in line with the relevant regulations and laws.
District authorities were told to draw up detailed plans to introduce alternative cash crops for opium growers and asked to introduce programmes to rehabilitate opium addicts.
Provincial authorities said officials in charge had failed to carry out proper inspections after the province was announced opium-free in 2006, and ex-opium farmers had returned to growing the crop, normally found in remote communities.
Officials said the rising price of opium in local and external markets had tempted farmers to start regrowing poppies.
Laos has struggled to reduce poppy cultivation in recent years, despite its earlier success in eliminating the crop.
Opium poppy cultivation has stabilised at high levels in Laos and Myanmar, according to a survey released recently by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The 2015 Southeast Asian Opium Survey showed that Myanmar remains the region's top opium producer and the world's second largest after Afghanistan, the survey published on December 16 on the UN News Centre's website showed.
Together, Myanmar and Laos produced between 731 and 823 metric tonnes of opium, most of which was refined into the equivalent of roughly 73.1 to 82.3 metric tonnes of street grade heroin for regional and international drug markets, according to the report.
Surveys of farmers in poppy-growing villages found that money generated from poppy cultivation is essential for villagers threatened with food insecurity and poverty.
Raw opium was being traded at US$1,800 a kilogram and the price had trended upwards annually, Chairman of the Lao National Commission for Drug Control and Supervision, Kou Chansena, said.
He added that Laos needed support from the international community to finance and run programmes that introduced alternative income-generating activities for opium growers to replace their illegal poppy cultivation.