Landslide-hit Chin farmers pushed into opium plantation
05 April 2016 – A number of farmers in Chin State affected by heavy landslides that had destroyed their crops have turned to the cultivation of opium poppies to make ends meet, the Free Burma Rangers said.
An FBR report said that many internally displaced people (IDPs) and farmers had found the plantation ‘a more profitable means of income in the wake of the massive destruction of traditional crops’.
“Within the last couple of years, however, with the floods depleting local fishing stocks, and the Indian military shutting down hunting along the border, villagers have been left with few options to provide for themselves and their families. As the opium poppy is a drought-resistant crop, it is an easier and more lucrative means of making money when other means fail,” the report added.
The northern township of Tonzang has been known for its opium cultivation and production for years. The report said that Singpial, with around 70 houses, has opium-related incidents of deaths and arrests.
“[M]any of the local authorities and police in Singpial are apathetic to opium production and have not taken reasonable steps to eradicate the illicit production of drugs,” it said.
ZT (name changed for security reasons), from northern Chin State who has been to the opium cultivation areas, told the Chinland Guardian that one of the main reasons behind the cultivation was owing to poverty and lack of development infrastructure.
“We heard that the production has been on the decrease although it’s difficult to confirm. With last year’s landslides bringing houses, farms and villages to destruction, people don’t have choices but to find out ways for their survivals,” he said.
Opium farming seems more prevalent in areas that do not receive social services, adding: “[V]illages have no government-supported schools, paved roads, or running water.”
The authorities has been criticized for failing to take concrete action to eradicate poppy cultivation in Chin State.
The FBR said that irrigation channels destroyed by nature must be repaired, the infrastructure that allows crops to be sold in markets must be built, and schools must be established.
“Unless concrete steps are taken to alleviate the underlying causes of drug production, the growing of opium in Chin State will likely increase.”#