12/15/2011, 00.00
MYANMAR – LAOS
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UN report warns of growing opium production Myanmar and Laos

Since 2006, opium production has doubled in Southeast Asia. The lack of security, political stability and sustainable development is the main reason for farmers to turn to the drug trade. The average price for opium in Myanmar jumped from US$ 305 per kilogram in 2010 to US$ 450 per kilogram this year. Thai model is a positive alternative to opium.
Yangon (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Opium cultivation in Southeast Asia has doubled since 2006 with significant increases in Burma (+14 per cent) and Laos this year, according to a report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) issued Thursday. The lack of security, political stability and sustainable development is the main factor encouraging farmers to turn to drug cultivation.

The upward trend saw opium production rise an estimated 5 per cent in 2011 over 2010, from about 580 metric tonnes to about 610 metric tonnes.

The average price for opium in Myanmar jumped from US$ 305 per kilogram in 2010 to US$ 450 per kilogram this year, according to UNODC data.

The steep price increase is "making production attractive to farmers," said Jason Eligh, UNODC Myanmar country manager.

Shan State in the northeast, on the border with Thailand, accounted for about 90 per cent of opium production in Myanmar in 2011. "The great intensity of cultivation is in areas of conflict," Eligh said.

As the world’s second biggest producer after Afghanistan, Burma accounted for 23 per cent of opium cultivation in 2011, whilst Laos accounted for 2 per cent—although its cultivation rose by 37 per cent from 2010.

“Unfortunately, the situation in the region is not positive,” said Yuri Fedotov, executive director of the UN agency, and the picture “grows dimmer” when combined with the fact that amphetamine-type stimulants are also a growing problem in Southeast Asia.

“To reverse this situation, the international community needs to better understand the nature of transnational organised crime and drug control in the region,” he said.

The estimated value of opium production in Burma, Laos and Thailand—the countries where most of the region’s cultivation takes place—rose 48 percent in 2011 from last year to US$ 319 million, according to the UNODC.

Gary Lewis, the UNODC's Regional Representative for East Asia and the Pacific, said Thailand serves as a good role model of how to eradicate poppy cultivation.

Thailand has spent about US billion over the past 40 years on alternative crop programmes and other measures to rid the country of poppy cultivation.

"Their approach has been good," he said of Thailand, but added that hopefully other countries can do it a bit quicker than 40 years.
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