Laos to Lend a Hand in Drugs Crackdown, Government Ministers Say

Three weeks after the Cambodian government launched a six-month crackdown on drug abuse and trafficking, the foreign minister of Laos on Tuesday pledged to assist by better policing a border that is a major entry point for drugs into Cambodia.

Following a meeting in Phnom Penh between Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn and his Laotian counterpart, Saleumxay Kommasith, Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Chum Sounry said Laos was willing to help.

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Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn, right, shakes hands with his Laotian counterpart, Saleumxay Kommasith, in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Mr. Sokhonn requested “help to push anti-border crime [efforts], especially with an anti-drug trafficking campaign along the border of both countries,” Mr. Sounry told reporters.

Mr. Kommasith, he added, “fully agreed with his excellency senior minister’s request, and he said he would discuss with all involved institutions to cooperate in anti-drug trafficking.”

Cambodia’s campaign to curb drug use and trafficking has been met with concern about how the government will deal with drug users once they are arrested. The government has said it plans to expand rehabilitation facilities, and promised to treat users as victims rather than criminals.

Laos has long been a hub for drug trafficking in Southeast Asia, sharing porous borders with Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and China. In a 2014 report, the U.S. State Department offered a bleak picture of the challenges the government faced in tackling the problem.

“Lao law enforcement…must police 3,000 miles of mountain and riverine borders exploitable by drug traffickers,” the report says.

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