Alarm as Opium Consumption Increases in Chin State
11 September 2011: Despite government’s ‘declared’ efforts to combat drug production in Burma, authority-run opium plantation has continued to increase in Chin State, with a rise in its addiction among the Chin people.
The local community leaders in the northern parts of Chin State are deeply concerned over an upsurge in the cultivation, production and addiction of opium along the Indian-Burma border, according to the BBC Burmese today.
A Chin local told BBC that the opium plantation has stretched across Cikha sub-township in Chin State to Tamu in Sagaing Division from Tonzang Township, where Meitei rebel groups from Manipur State, India are currently based.
A Chin university student said in an interview by Chin World Media that almost all men including youths in some villages in remote areas have used opiates although the figures of opium users across Chin State still remains unknown.
The local from Tonzang Township also said the cultivation has grown rapidly since 2008, with an estimated area of land up to 500 acres although it was first started in 2000 under the control of Burma’s military authorities and the Manipuri Meitei rebels.
In July, a Christian pastor working in Tonzang Township told Chin World Media that the estimated acres of land used for opium poppy plantation must be around 5,000 while other sources claimed to be about 1,000.
Another local admitted that it is not easy to know the exact sizes and locations of the opium cultivation as the areas are restricted under tight security measures.
Recently, a secret meeting took place in Falam Township between an Indian businessman and Major Aung Aung, Second Commander of Burma Army Light Infantry Battalion No. 274 over opium trading along the Indian-Burma border, according to Khonumthung news.
Sources said that Colonel Aung Kyi, from Burma Army LIB No. 89 based in Khampat town, Tamu District of Sagaing Division has been engaged in buying and selling raw opium produced from Chin State.
Opium from Chin State sells wholesale at about 6 lakhs (600,000 kyats) a viss, equivalent to about 1.5 kg or 3.5 lbs, whose market price on the streets is around 16 lakhs, according to BBC Burmese.
Members of the Meitei underground rebel groups are said to be able to freely move around the region including Tonzang Township, and Kalay District in Sagaing Division with their Burmese national identity cards.
After Afghanistan, Burma remains the second largest opium poppy producer in the world, with an increase in its cultivation by 20 percent last year, according to the UN report in June this year.
Van Biak Thang