BANGKOK, Dec. 20 (UPI) -- More farmers hurt by low prices for legal crops are growing opium poppies in Myanmar and Laos, United Nations officials say.
The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime warned the trend could reverse two decades of success in Southeast Asia. The Golden Triangle -- Laos, Myanmar and Thailand -- was once the major global source of opium but now produces only about 5 percent, the Integrated Regional Information Network said.
"We are worried about trends, especially in Myanmar, where we see the potential unraveling of much of what containment has produced over the past two decades," said Gary Lewis, the UNODC representative for East Asia and the Pacific.
Political instability in Myanmar, ruled by a secretive military junta, has contributed to opium cultivation there, officials said. But they say farmers are also responding to the law of supply and demand.
"We have prices of commodity items such as maize and rubber dropping more than 50 percent, and at the same time, we have seen an increase in opium prices," said Leik Boonwaat, the UNODC's representative in Laos. "Demand has been stable, the prices have increased and this has made it more tempting for farmers to increase production,"