Opium Cultivation ‘Shoots Up’ under Burma’s New Govt in Shan State
25 October 2011: The Palaung Women’s Organization (PWO) revealed in its report opium cultivation in Namkham Township of Shan State under Burma’s new government has rapidly increased, with an ‘alarming’ surge of over 78 percent within two years.
The report entitled ‘Still Poisoned‘, a follow-up to PWO’s 2010 Poisoned Hills, said areas of the cultivation controlled by newly elected MP of government-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), ‘Pansay’ Kyaw Myint, have expanded up to over 1,100 hectares since the elections in November last year.
‘Pansay’ Kyaw Myint, an MP for Namkham, promised voters during 2010 election campaigns that he would allow free ‘opium cultivation’ for five years if the locals would elect him in their constituency, according to the report.
Lway Nway Hnoung, principal researcher of the report, said: “Local paramilitary leaders are being allowed to cultivate and profit from drugs in return for helping the regime suppress ethnic resistance forces. Burma’s civil war and drug production are two sides of the same coin.”
Drug addiction has also been widespread across local Palaung communities, with today’s report saying that over 90 percent of males aged 15 and over in one village are now enslaved to heroin or opium.
The report also stressed an escalation of drug addiction in the Palaung area has resulted in a breakdown of families and communities.
“Burma’s drug problems are set to worsen unless there is genuine political reform that addresses the political aspirations of Burma’s ethnic minority groups.”
Government troops, police and militia are accused of openly taxing opium farmers, and to collect bribes from drug addicts in exchange for their release from custody.
Meanwhile, in northern parts of Chin State, the local military authorities have been engaged in association with the Indian rebel groups from Manipur State, India in trading opium products and controlling the areas of cultivation, whose production is reported to have risen rapidly in recent months.
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.
The UN report said Burma’s share of global opium production has increased from 5 per cent in 2007 to 12 per cent in 2010, with a rise in opium cultivation by 20 per cent in the country last year.
Reporting by Thawng Zel Thang