With its neighbours Myanmar (Burma), Vietnam and Thailand, Laos used to be known as the ‘Golden Triangle’ for opium.
Most of the world’s heroin came from the mountains of this region before Afghanistan became the largest producer in this century. Laos has all but stamped out production of opium. But now the country faces a new drugs challenge. An upsurge in the trafficking of methamphetamine is threatening its young people.
The drug is known in Laos as ‘yabaa’ or ‘crazy drug’. Reports suggest a rise in the trafficking of this drug, which can now be bought for as little as 4-6 dollars per tablet. It is unlikely the drug is being manufactured in Laos. It is most probably being sourced from neighbouring countries such as Myanmar. Unlike opium, yabaa is particularly targeted at the youth market of Laos. Over half the country’s population are under 20 years of age and yabaa is particularly attractive to young men, many of whom lack education opportunities and the prospect of employment.
This is a multi-facetted problem as there are social challenges in a changing world where cultures clash and young people often feel caught. Lack of identity in the midst of upheaval sees many seek relief, at least for a while.
Pray for the youth of Laos, for those who will work with them on some of these social challenges, and for the Church in that country to find a way to be relevant to this growing challenge.