Opium production rises, Golden Triangle remains impoverished
Harsh economic conditions are driving farmers to grow opium.
Opium output from Southeast Asia has increased for the sixth year in a row. The United Nations blames the rise in output on increased demand throughout Asia. Much of the new opium has come out of Myanmar which is responsible for 25 percent of the world's opium production.
According to a report from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, farmland under cultivation for poppies rose by 17 percent over last year. Much of the new tillage is in Myanmar. The illegal grows are becoming common in the Kachin and Shan states, near the border with China.
Fighting between armed militant groups in the region bordering China, Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar, has exacerbated problems with enforcement and efforts to eradicate the fields.
For poor farmers in the region, the economic incentive is also great because opium crops can yield as much as 19 percent higher returns than rice.
The report suggests the increased production is a result of higher demand in China. Farmers in the region also face economic difficulties and need cash to support their families. These farmers have traditionally grown and harvested poppies for heroin, a practice that has caused many to dub the region, the "Golden Triangle". However, there isn't much gold there, even with the bumper opium harvests.
Poverty and desperation reign supreme. The region is also known as an original source for human slaves, frequently young girls, who are trafficked along the same routes as the opium.
Opium has long been a preferred drug for many around the world. Opium is widely used as a painkiller and is demanded by the pharmaceutical industry. Historically, smoked opium was popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, and was banned in China as the British government managed its importation to offset losses from the tea trade.
When China banned the importation of opium into the country, the British used military force in a series of "opium wars" to keep the ports open, addicts supplied, and money flowing into western coffers.
Today much of the money flowing thorough the region ends up in the hands of organized crime syndicates and terrorists who use the opium trade to finance their operations.
© 2012, Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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