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Poverty in Myanmar Pushing Opium Output Higher

Opium farming family in Northern Shan State

Opium farming family in Northern Shan State

CHIANG RAI – Official efforts to stamp out opium production in Myanmar are falling flat because poor farmers don’t have alternative ways to make a living, a UN agency said Wednesday.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimated in its annual Southeast Asia Opium Survey that Myanmar will produce 870 metric tons of opium in 2013, remaining the world’s second-largest grower after Afghanistan. That would be a 26 percent rise over 2012 production.

The agency said last month that Afghanistan’s opium production this year was 5,500 metric tons, a 49 percent rise.

The report said rising demand in Asia for illicit drugs has also fueled Myanmar’s increase.

The UN agency said the trend is particularly alarming as economic integration and improved infrastructure binding Southeast Asia and southern China facilitate opportunities for criminal trafficking.

The drug-producing heartland where the borders of Burma, Thailand and Laos converge, the infamous Golden Triangle, is also a major source of methamphetamine as well as heroin, which is derived from opium.

Farmers in eight northern provinces and some parts of the Northeast are defying the state’s crackdown and still growing the illegal crop.

The latest survey, conducted between August 2012 and July this year, found opium poppy cultivation has increased by about 355 rai, or 27.2%, meaning a total of 1,659 rai in the country is now dedicated to growing the plants…. Read More

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