By The Associated Press Source: Associated Press Laos, one of the world' s leading opium producers, will soon introduce the death penalty for serious drug offenses, an official newspaper reported Wednesday. The National Assembly of the communist state approved an amendment to the penal code Tuesday before ending its current parliamentary session. Previously, serious drug trafficking and possession offenses carried a maximum 10-year jail sentence. The tougher penalties are a way to " halt the potential danger to the youth in the future and to the safety and security of the country, " said a parliamentary resolution quoted by Vientiane Mai newspaper. The change in the law, expected to get final approval within the next month from the country' s president, will bring it in line with strict anti-drug legislation in other Southeast Asian countries. The death penalty will apply to offenders guilty of possession, use, sale or trafficking of more than 17.9 ounces of heroin, 6.6 pounds of amphetamines or 22 pounds of chemicals used to produce illegal drugs. Possession of more than 22 pounds of marijuana or 11 pounds of opium -- drugs which are both farmed extensively in Laos -- will be punishable with life imprisonment. Laos lies in Southeast Asia' s drug-producing Golden Triangle and is the world' s third largest producer of opium, the source of heroin. The government has resolved to eradicate opium -- a cash crop for thousands of its poorest farmers -- by 2006. A Western diplomat based in Vientiane said it was still not clear when the new penalties would actually take effect, as the government plans first to disseminate information about the amended law to educate the public. A wide range of offenses, including acts of rebellion, betraying state secrets, killing a state official and homicide carry the death penalty in Laos, though it is rarely applied. Source: Associated Press Published: Wednesday, April 11, 2001 Copyright: 2001 Associated Press.