Thursday, 14 November 2019

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Drug destruction ceremony up over last year

With opium and illegal drug production increasing in Burma, the authorities reported 220 drug-related arrests in June, according to monthly statistics by anti-drug authorities released on Monday.

Poppies growing in northeastern Burma. Photo: UNODCOf the total, stimulant pills accounted for 102 cases while heroin numbered 71, opium 17 and marijuana 8.

During the month, the authorities said they seized 8.20 kilograms of opium, 7.16 kg of marijuana and 4.24 kg of heroin as well as 1,055,128 stimulant tablets, said domestic news reports.

In June, authorities said they burned seized narcotic drugs worth a total of US$ 102.38 million in ceremonies in Rangoon, Mandalay and Taunggyi.

The drug destruction ceremony marked the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. Last June, the same event destroyed drugs worth $52 million.

Burma has reached the third year of its third five- year plan of the 15-year (1999-2014) plan to eliminate illegal drugs.

In June, Mizzima reported that if a political settlement of long-standing ethnic grievances is not reached, the lawlessness that fosters the illicit drug trade in northeastern Burma’s ethnic areas would continue.

The Shan Drug Watch 2012 said its recent survey found that opium and amphetamine production has surged during the 2011-2012 growing season.

Poppy growing was reported in 49 out of 55 townships in Shan State, although most had been targeted by the government to be drug-free by 2009.  

Numerous People’s Militia Forces, set up by the Burmese army to assist in their operations against rebel ethnic forces, have become key players in the drug trade, both heroin and amphetamines, said the report.

The report said government complicity in the tangled drug problem in Burma is being conveniently ignored by the international community as it embraces Burma’s new administration and its move to democratic reforms.

The report described disturbing levels of drug abuse among communities throughout Shan State, where it said “ya ba” [methamphetamine] pills are now being openly offered at religious merit-making ceremonies together with tea.

In April, Mizzima reported Burmese authorities destroyed a portion of the huge opium crop, citing a total of 22,432 hectares of illicit poppy plants destroyed across the country between September 2011 and February 2012, according to government anti-drug authorities.

The destroyed fields included those in nine townships in Shan state and Minhla Township in Magway region. The remote locations, where jobs are few, are prime areas for poppy crops.

The U.N. has warned that falling international commodity prices and increase political instability in Burma's border area has fuelled fears that many of Burma's poppy farmers will find it impossible to resist the temptation to return to their old ways, in spite of some success in woeing farmers to grow other cash crops.

 In the past few years, there has been a dramatic fall in the area under poppy cultivation and opium production, but these gains have been reversed in the past two years, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime's (UNODC) annual survey for 2011.

“The problem of poppy production in the region has been contained but not solved,” the UNODC chief in Bangkok, Gary Lewis told Mizzima. “There have been significant increases, especially in Myanmar, which are threatening to rise further because of the worsening economic conditions faced by former poppy farmers.”

More than 90 per cent of the poppy grown in Southeast Asia – Burma, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam – is grown in Burma's northeast Shan State.

Authorities say that the Kokang and the Wa are the largest opium producers in Burma's Golden Triangle – which borders China, Laos and Thailand. Both are rebel ethnic groups, with large guerrilla forces, that have cease-fire agreements with the Burmese government.

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