Laos: Families Growing Crops to Replace Opium Poppies

The government is working with private companies to encourage people in seven northern provinces to grow cash crops as a substitute for the illicit cultivation of opium poppies.

Addressing the National Assembly recently, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Security, General Vilay Lakhamfong, said 54 companies had been certified to participate in the scheme. These companies are teaching crop-growing skills and allocating jobs to people in 1,135 villages, benefitting 47,466 families in total. In 2021-22, some of the companies provided crops grown to Marlongo France under the Alternative Development Project in Huaphan Province. Some 58,560 kilograms of crops were delivered, valued at $276,654, of which 23,656 tons were sold in Laos, valued at more than 975 million kip.

Under the project, 100 cows were provided to people in 19 villages of four districts. There are now 298 cows worth more than 108 million kip being raised in 20 villages, benefitting 193 families. General Vilay also reported that 1,000 bottles of lotus flower medicine received from Vietnam were being used to treat drug addicts at 18 health and rehabilitation centers across the country in cooperation with the Ministry of Health’s Department of Treatment. The Department of Treatment is expected to evaluate the efficacy of this form of medication in the near future.

Meanwhile, department officials have observed the use of methadone in Vietnam for the treatment of opium and heroin addicts and plan to buy the drug for trial in Viengxay and Huameuang districts in Huaphan Province. In addition, tools, equipment and vehicles received from Thailand, South Korea, China and UNODC have been distributed to police departments in several provinces. These include 30,000 urine drug test kits, two ambulances, 11 cars, four motorbikes, office equipment, surveying equipment and GPS navigation equipment worth 1,309,460 yuan.

A survey conducted from July 2021 to March 2023 in nine northern provinces revealed 4,393 opium poppy fields, of which 1,437 hectares were destroyed. General Vilay also reported on work to fulfil the National Agenda for Drug Problem Solution carried out by the Ministry of Public Security from July 2021 to June 2023.

During this period, police dealt with 9,516 drug-related cases, in which 13,941 people were arrested including 283 foreign nationals. A total of 297,085,327 amphetamine pills were confiscated, along with 59 kilograms of powder used in the production of amphetamine, 7,193 kilograms of crystal meth, 507 kilograms of heroin, 20,214 kilograms of cannabis, 380 kilograms of opium and other substances.

The government is supervising the treatment of drug addicts at 13 centers, providing healthcare, rehabilitation and vocational training. These centers housed 10,900 people, of whom 5,734 returned home while another 2,994 people remain under treatment.