Pubdate: Wed, 1 Dec 1999
Source: Japan Times
Copyright: © 1999 Japan Times
Author: Hisane Masaki
Tokyo to host international narcotics conference
By HISANE MASAKI
Senior police, customs, maritime safety, foreign and health officials from some 20 countries will assemble in Tokyo in mid-January to discuss ways to stimulate cooperation in an antinarcotics crusade in East Asia, government sources said Tuesday.
It will be the first time Japan has hosted such a large-scale conference on drug problems, the sources said. Although Japan hosted the Asia Drug Law Enforcement Conference in February, its participants were basically limited to regional police officials from Japan, China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.
The sources said hosting the January meeting reflects strong government concern about a growing number of drug-abuse cases in Japan and is also aimed at demonstrating the country's determination to play an active role in addressing the drug problems in East Asia as a whole.
According to sources, senior officials from Japan, China, South Korea and Southeast Asian countries will participate in the conference, scheduled for Jan. 17 and 18, as full members.
The head of the United Nations International Drug Control Program (UNDCP) and senior officials of the World Customs Organization are also expected to participate. Senior officials from some other industrialized countries, including the United States, Australia, Britain and France, will also attend, but only as observers, the sources said.
The sources said that after holding a joint opening ceremony, the conference participants will split into four groups: police officials, maritime safety officials, customs officials and foreign and health officials.
They will discuss ways to strengthen cooperation in cracking down on illicit drug production and trade, and also in curbing the growing demand for illegal drugs in East Asia, the sources said.
China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia concluded a memorandum of understanding with the UNDCP in 1995 on stepping up cooperation in addressing the illegal manufacture, smuggling and abuse of drugs. The so-called Golden Triangle region, which comprises parts of Myanmar, Thailand and Laos, is notorious for cultivating huge amounts of opium.
The number of stimulant drug-abuse cases has been rising sharply in Japan, especially among schoolchildren. According to the National Police Agency' there are an estimated 2.18 million amphetamine abusers.
Alarmed about the current "third wave" of drug abuse sweeping the country, a government panel chaired by then-Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto adopted in May 1998 a "five-year strategy for preventing the abuse of drugs."
The government strategy, which represented Japan's first long-term program to combat drug abuse, called for increased international cooperation, especially with Japan's Asian neighbors, as well as for more education and a crackdown on drug smuggling into Japan.
While many other industrialized countries are particularly concerned about the abuse of such narcotics as coca, cannabis and opium, putting controls on stimulants is the biggest task facing Japan, where about 90 percent of drug-related offenses involve stimulants.
There are two kinds of stimulant drugs - amphetamines and their more powerful crystalline derivatives, methamphetamines. The bulk of stimulant drugs smuggled into Japan are manufactured in mainland China and Southeast Asia.
As part of efforts to implement the government's five-year anti-drug strategy, Japan announced in June 1998 a decision to pay the full cost of a $370,000 project proposed by the UNDCP aimed at curbing the rise in the use of illegal stimulant drugs, particularly among the young, in Southeast Asia.
The announcement was made at a special session of the U.N. General Assembly on narcotics held in New York in June 1998. The special U.N. session adopted a political declaration calling for, among other things, concerted action among U.N. member nations to achieve significant progress in the fight against narcotics, including a reduction in the trade of illegal drugs, over the next decade.