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

Kurdish Party Pushes Political Gamble to Run in Turkey Poll

HDP announces it will run as political party instead of fielding independent candidates in June election, but faces tough 10 percent threshold More

Twitter Targets Islamic State

New research shows suspending Twitter accounts of Islamic State, its supporters has been effective; group, its backers are facing 'significant pressure,' says terrorism expert More

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

Majur Juac made the leap from being a refugee in Africa to a master chess champion in US, where he shares his expertise with students More

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.
NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Spacei
X
Rosanne Skirble
January 27, 2015 5:05 PM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.
Video

Video Weekly Protests in Korea Keep Japanese WWII Atrocities Alive

Every week in Seoul protesters gather in front of the Japanese Embassy to demand an apology and reparations from Tokyo for the thousands of South Korean women who were forced into prostitution during World War II. Although this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, these protestors have helped keep the issue of comfort women alive and made it difficult for Japan to move beyond its past wartime atrocities. VOA's Brian Padden reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Exercise: New Prescription for Parkinsons Disease

Exercise could be the new prescription for Parkinson's Disease, a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. More than six million people worldwide suffer from Parkinsons and they're traditionally treated with medication and surgery. Shelley Schlender has more.
Video

Video Brussels Shaken as New Greek Leader Challenges Europe’s Austerity Drive

Greece’s youngest-ever prime minister, 40-year-old Alexis Tsipras, was sworn in Monday after his victorious far-left Syriza party entered a coalition with far right rivals. Tsipras says he will restore dignity to Greece by ending spending cuts. So begins a new chapter for the country at the epicenter of Europe’s economic crisis - a change that has sent tremors across the continent, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Oil Price Drop Troubles Texas Producers

As oil prices have fallen over the past several months, drilling operations have slowed in some parts of the United States - including Texas, the state that surpasses all others in energy production. The Lone Star State’s energy output has been boosted in recent years by development of resources trapped deep below ground in the Eagle Ford shale deposit, which stretches across south central Texas. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Karnes City, Texas, the drop in oil prices has created concerns,
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid