Vientiane (Laos), July 18: Women increasingly appear to be taking part in the illegal drug trade in Laos, as drug lords find they make good smugglers because they blend into their surroundings, RFA’s Laos Service reported.
Exact numbers are hard to come by, but a Laos police official told RFA that Laos authorities have noticed a sharp increase in the number of women arrested for drug offences, especially involving amphetamines.
In central Laos’ Bolikhamsay province alone, police have arrested about a hundred women on drug charges.
“Women become drug traffickers because they seem to go about their business unobserved,” a Lao law enforcement official told RFA on condition of anonymity.
“There are women involved in many more drug cases this year, with around 100 women arrested in drug cases. Most of them were retailers.”
The surge in women drug traffickers had gone largely unnoticed until recently as they go about their business in Laos without raising suspicion.
Most of those arrested are between 30 and 50 in age, and come from ethnic minority communities in Laos, and many are pregnant.
“It is difficult to help women stay out of the illegal drug business because they come from poor families, so they get used to drug smugglers and traffickers,” the official said.
More women from Laos are arrested in Thailand than from other ASEAN countries. According to the Thai government, the number of Lao female prisoners now stands at 1,352 while female Burmese and Cambodian prisoners stand at 581 and 552, respectively.
Laos is known for the “Golden Triangle”, on the border with Myanmar, the main source of heroin and methamphetamine for the Asian market.
It also is the second largest area (350,000 km2) for opium production, after Afghanistan’s Golden Crescent.
In view of the situation, Lao Prime Minister Thonon Sisoulith is pushing his country’s citizens to join in the fight against illegal drug use and trade.
Last month, Thongloun set fire to a cache of drugs seized by authorities. The latter included more than 4.3 million tablets of amphetamine-type tablets, as well as dry cannabis, methamphetamines, and other synthetic drugs.
He described the drug trade as “an obstacle to national social and economic development, and an important source of crime and corruption”.