Myanmar's poppy harvest continues to rise

Oct. 31, 2012 at 11:32 AM

NAYPYITAW, Myanmar, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime said Wednesday that poppy cultivation in Myanmar was on the rise despite government efforts.

A UNODC report on opium poppy cultivation in Myanmar, a country formerly known as Burma, said the harvest rose for the sixth consecutive year. The report said poppy cultivation increased 17 percent in 2012 compared to last year even though the government there said it was increasing its eradication campaign.

Gary Lewis, Asia-Pacific representative for the UNODC, said the international community needs to step in to help find a solution.

"The opium numbers continue to head in the wrong direction," he said in a statement. "However we have seen more progress on responding to the root causes of opium cultivation in the past year than we have in the past decade."

Myanmar has received praised for embracing democratic reforms that began with general elections in 2010. Violence between Muslim and Buddhists in Rakhine state has left at least 76 people dead and entire areas razed in recent days, however.

Tomas Ojea Quintana, U.N. special envoy to Myanmar, said the government needs to address long-standing issues that have left Muslims vulnerable to discrimination.

"The situation in the Rakhine state illustrates the importance of Myanmar placing human rights at the heart of its ongoing reform process," he said.

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