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Laos: New National Plan on Narcotics Control

(Mar. 23, 2016) At its March 2016 monthly meeting, the Laos Cabinet made a decision to approve a national plan on narcotics control for the years 2016-2020. The plan covers several aspects of the issue, including:

  • strengthening enforcement of the Law on Narcotics;
  • enhancing the capacity of officials to handle narcotics cases;
  • increasing support from external partners; and
  • expanding anti-drug education efforts, particularly at the local level. (Laos: Cabinet Meeting Addresses Key Issues, LAO NEWS AGENCY ONLINE (Mar. 16, 2016), Open Source Center online subscription database, ID No. SER2016031642974330; Law on Narcotics (passed by the National Assembly on Dec. 25, 2007; promulgated by the President on Jan. 14, 2008) (click on “7g Law on Narcotic” to view full text in Lao).)

Domestic drug use, as well as the export of these substances, has increasingly been a concern of Laotian leaders. (Laos Steps Up Crackdown on Illegal Drugs as Narcotics Cases Rise, RADIO FREE ASIA (Feb. 4, 2015); Illegal Drugs in Laos, FACTS AND DETAILS.COM (2013).) In 2015, the government had announced a crackdown on narcotics crimes, targeting buyers, sellers, and users. (Laos Steps Up Crackdown on Illegal Drugs as Narcotics Cases Rise, supra.)

Penal Code Drug Provisions

In addition to the Law on Narcotics, Laos’s Penal Law contains provisions on the subject of illegal drugs. (Penal Law (Jan. 9, 1990, as amended to Nov. 9, 2005), WIPOLEX (click on PDF link, then select “Download.”) In the early 2000s, the death penalty was added to the Law for particularly serious offenses, such as producing, trading in, distributing, possessing, or transporting more than 500 grams of heroin. (Id. art. 146 (1).) A similar provision applies the death penalty to trafficking in 3,000 or more grams of amphetamines or “other psychotropic substances.” (Id. art. 146 (2).) A detailed list of prohibited drugs can be found in a 2009 Decree. (Decree on the Implementation of the Law on Drugs (Mar. 20, 2009), art. 5, available at ASIANLII.)

Background

According to a Laotian official, the imposition of harsher punishment for drug crimes was done to “halt the potential danger to the youth in the future and [for] the safety and security of the country.” (Illegal Drugs in Laos, FACTS AND DETAILS.COM (2013).) A portion of Laos is within the “Golden Triangle” region, which also covers parts of Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand and is one of the world’s major sources of opium. (Laos Steps Up Crackdown on Illegal Drugs as Narcotics Cases Rise, supra.) Cultivation of poppies for opium harvesting and eventual heroin production is reported to have increased greatly, rising 73% from 2007 to 2008, and there are reports that methamphetamine is being produced in the country. (Id.; Illegal Drugs in Laos, supra.)