News / Asia

    Burmese Political Reforms Raise Hope for Curbing Opium Production

    Burmese narcotic control officials put more wood to burn some six tons of seized opium, heroin and other drugs before diplomats, journalists and international business leaders in Rangoon, Burma. (File Photo)
    Burmese narcotic control officials put more wood to burn some six tons of seized opium, heroin and other drugs before diplomats, journalists and international business leaders in Rangoon, Burma. (File Photo)
    Ron Corben

    Burma’s political reforms and new ceasefire agreements with ethnic armed groups are raising hopes that the country will also be able to reduce illicit opium cultivation. Ron Corben reports from Bangkok.

    This week Burma’s government signed another peace agreement with an armed ethnic army. Leaders reached a deal with the Shan State Army, a militia based in the northern Shan State where much of the country’s opium is produced.

    Burma is world’s second largest opium producer after Afghanistan, which is responsible for 90 percent of world opium output.

    The U.N.’s Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) says 43,000 hectares were under cultivation in Burma in 2011, doubling the  output in five years. Burma, also known as Myanmar, is a major source of amphetamine-type stimulants, most of which are produced in Shan State.

    UNODC says grinding poverty and internal conflict in the troubled ethnic regions led to the doubling in production of opium poppy - the raw commodity for heroin.

    Armed ethnic groups in the region also had resisted government calls to act as border patrol units.

    Now, as Burma’s President Thein Sein presses ahead with political and economic reforms, as well as ceasefire agreements with the militias, the United Nations says the president is also looking to address drug production.

    Gary Lewis is the UNODC regional representative for East Asia and the Pacific.

    “We see the government developing a three year alternative development strategy; engaged in ceasefire with various insurgent groups and this we believe will give us an opportunity to encourage those in the international community who wish to partner with Myanmar and the communities on the ground to find alternatives to poppy,” said Lewis.

    UNODC programs involve farmer support projects in Southern Shan State promoting alternative development.

    Foreign aid to Burma has been limited because of allegations of the military’s past human rights record and restricted access for international donors. But analysts say the reforms, including the release of political prisoners, have set the way open for donor funds.

    Gary Lewis, the UNODC regional representative for East Asia and the Pacific, January 19, 2012.
    Gary Lewis, the UNODC regional representative for East Asia and the Pacific, January 19, 2012.

    But UNODC’s Lewis says international assistance will be needed for poppy eradication and alternative crop programs.

    “We need to do more, like in Shan State in Myanmar, that the international community engages, provides us with the type of financial support that we need at this stage now that the government is welcoming more international engagement," added Lewis. "That will give us access to the areas there where we would then be able to engage with local communities.”

    Bertil Lintner, author and analyst on Burma, says only a “political solution” will ensure an end to the economic and social uncertainties that led to drug production.

    “I can’t see how any crop eradication program which has to go with the government in an area where the ethnic conflict has not been solved can achieve anything," said Lintner. "You would need a political solution to Burma’s ethnic problems and that is not easy.”

    Protection of human rights, especially access to land, also needs to be recognized, says Debbie Stothard, spokeswoman for the Alternative ASEAN Network. Past official eradication programs have often led to land confiscation from local communities.

    “There definitely needs to be peace secured in the ethnic areas," she said. "But there also needs to be good governance and there is a danger that international programs used for drug eradication would be manipulated by the government to push local people off their land.”

    Stothard says demilitarization needs to occur as the armed forces have been accused of extorting funds from communities She says for effective drug eradication to succeed, legislative and institutional reforms also need to be put in place.

    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora