News / Asia

UN: Burmese, Laotian Opium Cultivation Surging

Thai soldier in Tak province during annual search and destroy opium eradication operation, Jan. 2007 (file photo).
Thai soldier in Tak province during annual search and destroy opium eradication operation, Jan. 2007 (file photo).
Daniel Schearf

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said Thursday the land area used for opium cultivation in Southeast Asia grew by an estimated 16 percent in 2011, as farmers in Burma and Laos seek to cash in on high prices.

The UNODC says Burma, the world’s second largest producer after Afghanistan, accounted for most of the increased planting and 96 percent of the region’s opium. It produced an estimated 610 metric tons this year, about ten percent of global opium, while Laos produced 25 tons.

Southeast Asia's total production was valued at about $319 million, some $275 million of which was made in Burma. By comparison, anti-narcotics agency says Afghanistan's opium production this year is worth $1.4 billion.

UNODC representative for the Asia Pacific, Gary Lewis, spoke at the release of its annual survey on opium. He told the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand that most of the opium was in Shan state in northern Burma, also known as Myanmar.

"According to our estimates, what is driving the poppy increase is food insecurity, poverty, the conflict that’s raging in that part of Myanmar, and the high prices that are available for people who wish to cultivate," he said.

The UNODC says opium prices in Burma since 2010 shot from $300 to $450 per kilogram with the lowering value of the currency, the kyat, and demands from neighboring countries.

Opium prices in Laos and Thailand were higher, at $1,600 and $1,400 per kilogram respectively.

UNODC’s Burma manager Jason Eligh says poor farmers that plant the crop or work as laborers on poppy farms can earn several times the average income of other agricultural workers.

"So, you can see that it’s a rational economic choice for people who are facing these threats to their household to try and become engaged in poppy cultivation either through growing crops or through assisting in the growing and harvesting of these crops as laborers," he said.

Under eradication and crop substitute programs, Southeast Asia's major opium producers -- Burma, Laos and Thailand -- saw cultivation drop by 83 percent from 1998 to 2006.

But, since then, production has gradually increased in Burma and Laos.

Thailand is the only country in the region that has managed to keep opium production down, with the size of poppy fields dropping this year by a quarter and production down to three metric tons.

The UNODC credits Thailand’s efforts to address the problem, including crop substitution programs.

The anti-narcotic agency says more international funding is needed in Burma and Laos to introduce alternative crops and development programs that are sorely lacking.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Urges Restraint in Hong Kong Protests

Protesters angered by Beijing's decision to only approve candidates that it sanctions for Hong Kong's leadership elections in 2017 More

Archive of Forgotten UCLA Speeches Offers Snapshot of History

Recordings of prominent voices in social change, politics, science and literature from 1960s, early 1970s now available on YouTube 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.
Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenyai
X
Gabe Joselow
September 29, 2014 6:20 PM
Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Video

Video Reconstruction? What Reconstruction? Life After War in Gaza

It’s been a month since Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire to end 52 days of an air and tank war that left 60,000 homes in Gaza damaged or destroyed and 110,000 homeless. Sharon Behn reports that lack of reconstruction is leading to despair.
Video

Video US, Saudi Arabia and UAE Hit Islamic State's Oil Revenue

The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have bombed oil facilities operated by Islamic State militants in Syria. It was a truly collaborative effort, with the two Arab countries dropping the majority of the bombs. The 12 refineries targeted were estimated to generate as much as $2 million per day for the terrorist group. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb has the story.
Video

Video Russia's Food Sanctions Raise Price Worries, Hopes for Domestic Production

Russia retaliated against Western sanctions imposed for its actions in Ukraine by halting food imports from the West. The temporary import ban on food from Australia, the European Union, Norway and North America has Russian consumers concerned that they could face a sharp increase in food prices. But in an ironic twist, the restrictions aimed at the Kremlin have made Russia's domestic food producers hopeful this can boost their business. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid