YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–According to reports provided by the Armenian government’s "Drug Czar" Ashot Mkrtchyan–Armenia–in recent years has become a center and a transit point for international drug trafficking.
This statement–according to the official–comes from data collected over the last few months. The indicate that in 1996 some 517 drug-related incidences were recorded with the confiscation of 59 kg of narcotics. These numbers–according to the data–have gone up at a rapid pace. Thus far in 1997–almost the same number of cases have been recorded–with the amount of the various narcotics confiscated and destroyed reported at 235 tons.
According to the data provided by the ministry–the largest age concentration of drug user in Armenia is between 35-49–while within the teenage and early twenties population–addicts comprise some 11 percent of all those arrested. Of such young addicts–the majority are students.
Reports indicate that 500 individuals are currently incarcerated with drug-related charges–and Mkrtchyan admits that that number has risen significantly since 1993. In fact–says Mkrtchyan–the number of drug cases have grown 1.5 times since the early 90’s–while the amount of confiscated narcotics has risen by almost 30 times the amount in 1993.
According to Mkrtchyan–Armenia has become an international transit point for traffickers. The origins of the illegal material are usually Iran–the United States–Lebanon and the Russian Federation. There is a fear–according to Mkrtchyan–that the production of synthetic drugs will soon begin to increase in Armenia–because the chemical material and technology is readily available in the country.
"We are only able to arrest and prosecute traffickers–however–much more needs to be done in the area of preventive education and the dissemination of material. It is an imperative that all capable person be involved in this war against drugs," asserted Mkrtchyan.
Armenia is a part of several international treaties to combat drug trafficking–and according to the drug czar–several new pieces of legislation have been brought before the National Assembly with hopes of strengthening the laws on drug-related offenses.