Hmong tribesman Vo Pali takes a puff of opium at his village in Houaphan province, northern Laos.
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In a hut on the top of a fog-licked mountain in northern Laos, Vo Pali is getting high.No full drug addiction survey has ever been taken in Laos and there is virtually no rehab provision.Wedged between five countries, Laos has for decades played a starring role in the "Golden Triangle" drug trade. Its opium became a treasured export in the 1960s and '70s as heroin hit the streets of the United States and drug money became entwined in the U.S'. Laos was meant to go opium-free after a 2006 edict by its communist leadership outlawed the growing of the cash crop.In 2015 around 5,700 hectares of Laos were estimated to be under opium cultivation – more than triple the amount in 2007 .Several major seizures of raw opium and heroin this year in Vietnam couriered by Hmong villagers has renewed scrutiny on the relationship between opium and Laos' most marginalized people.While opium cultivation could eventually make little economic sense, Laos' more urgent drug problem is with methamphetamine.Zhao Wei is virtually untouchable inside the SEZ, running his own security in an area whose 99-year lease terms bar Laos authorities from intruding.
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