U.N.: Opium poppy farming in Myanmar up

Oct. 31, 2012 at 11:11 AM

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- Opium poppy farming in Myanmar rose for the sixth straight year despite a stepped-up government eradication program, a U.N. report released Wednesday said.

The Southeast Asia opium survey for 2012 said Myanmar opium poppy cultivation jumped 17 percent from 2011 to 2012, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crimes said in a release.

The U.N. report said 51,000 hectares were cultivated in 2012, up from 43,000 hectares in 2011.

While smaller in quantity, opium cultivation in Laos increased in 2012 to 6,800 hectares from 4,100 hectares in 2011, the report said.

Thailand saw a 4 percent drop to 209 hectares.

"The opium numbers continue to head in the wrong direction", said Gary Lewis, the office's regional representative for East Asia and the Pacific. "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. The international community must now ask 'how can we help?' and provide resources towards a solution."

The report said any long-term solution to poppy cultivation would require investments in peace, rule of law and alternative development.

Speaking from Bangkok, Lewis said the increase in opium poppy cultivation in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, coupled with increases in the trafficking in methamphetamines and other illicit drugs "reflect a growing human security threat to the region."

Myanmar is Southeast Asia's largest opium poppy-growing country and the world's second largest after Afghanistan, the United Nations said. The U.N. agency estimated Myanmar's opium production so far in 2012 is 690 metric tons, representing a 13 percent increase from 2011, and the highest level of production since 2003.

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