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press releases 2012

U.S. Announces New Support for Lao Law Enforcement

June 8, 2012

Minister Soubanh Srithirath shares a toast with U.S. Ambassador Stewart and PDAS Nichols after the Signing Ceremony

Brian A. Nichols, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the U.S. State Department’s Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), pledged to continue U.S.-Lao cooperation in the fight against illegal drugs and boost support for Lao law enforcement during a visit to Vientiane June 7-9.

On June 7, accompanied by Ambassador Karen Stewart, Mr. Nichols and Minister Soubanh Srithirath, the Lao senior official for drug control, signed a new, one-year $400,000 assistance agreement.  The agreement will support the Lao National Commission for Drug Control and Supervision (LCDC). 

The funds will be used to train and equip Lao counter-narcotics police as well as upgrade the treatment of drug addicts at the Somsanga Treatment Center and at other centers.  The money will also support a new pilot program to foster community-based treatment for methamphetamine addicts in Vientiane Capital.

Mr. Nichols also called the following day on Vice Minister of Justice Ket Kiettisack, where, in the presence of Supreme Public Prosecutor Khamsane Souvong, he and UNODC Representative Leik Boonwaat announced a new $150,000 training program for Lao prosecutors.  Mr. Boonwaat said the project should help Lao prosecutors develop specializations in crimes such as narcotics trafficking, money-laundering, and cybercrime, and make them even more effective at pursuing convictions for transnational criminals. 

Mr. Nichols said, “The mission of the State Department’s INL Bureau, both in Laos and across the globe, has expanded to focus on the full range of law enforcement and justice sector assistance activities.  This grant fits into that broader mission, and represents our government’s commitment to partnering with the Lao government in new ways while still maintaining our efforts to combat illegal drugs.”

On June 7, Mr. Nichols met with the Deputy Director General of Customs, Mr. Bounpaseuth Sikounlabouth, to review the progress of a $100,000 project begun in 2011 to assist Lao Customs in contraband interdiction, investigations, risk management, and other vital functions that funds training and other assistance to Lao Customs. 

For a more detailed discussion of the illegal drug situation in Lao PDR, Mr. Nichols also met with Mr. Kou Chansina, Vice Chairman of the LCDC; Mr. Ounseng Vixay, Permanent Secretary of the LCDC; and Police Col. Khamphonh Sihapanya, Director of the Drug Control Department.   At that meeting, Mr. Nichols congratulated Col. Khamphonh and Mr. Ounseng on the recent capture of notorious drug trafficker Naw Kham, and complimented Mr. Kou on the LCDC’s long and successful effort to reduce the cultivation of opium and, via treatment, the number of opium addicts.  Also noted at the meeting was U.S.-funded construction in Phongsaly province of four wet-crossing bridges to make an important road passable all year round and assist farmers in a former opium-growing area to earn their livelihoods legally.  The bridges should be finished in July.  Mr. Nichols reaffirmed the U.S. intention to continue assistance in these efforts so vital to the well-being of the Lao people.

U.S. narcotics-related assistance to the Lao PDR began in 1989 and amounts cumulatively to over $31 million.