ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Drug hauls up in Myanmar
Drug seizures and production/cultivation of illicit substances have surged in Myanmar, particularly in rural Shan and Karen states, where ethnic rebels and poor communities continue to fight the military-junta over the government’s poor treatment and mismanagement of the region.
Last year alone, more than 23 million methamphetamine (Ya-Ba) tablets were seized in the military-ruled nation, up from a comparatively meagre 1 million in 2008. Across Myanmar, Thailand and China, total seizures of methamphetamine have trebled from 30 million tablets in 2008 to 90 million last year.
Representatives from the United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime (UNODC) told AFP that the massive surge in drug seizures were unlikely to be a result of more effective or better crime prevention techniques in the nation, but a rapid increase in production and cultivation.
“We believe that if you see an increase in seizure figures that is generally indicative over the medium to long term of an increased flow of drugs,” an unnamed spokesman told reporters.
Secondary to the increased production of methamphetamine in the region, Myanmar has also seen opium cultivation rise over the past few years. Almost 78,300 acres of agricultural land was set aside for opium production in 2009, up by almost 50 percent on the 2006 estimate. This is only a fraction of the levels of the late 1990s when Myanmar produced almost half of the world’s opiates. Myanmar accounts for 17 percent of the world’s illicit poppy cultivation, dwarfed by Afghanistan which accounts for more than 60 percent.
The majority of seizures and suspected production/cultivation locations are contained within Myanmar’s Northern Shan and Karen states, where chronic poverty and destitution has forced many of the rural communities into the lucrative methamphetamine or opium trade.
Widely controlled by ethnic rebels and insurgent militia, who oppose the current military-government the Shan/Karen states are often involved in violent clashes, primarily along their border regions.
At present, UNODC speculate that many of the illicit drug producers/cultivators are cashing in on their lucrative product as fears and an increasing sense of vulnerability is being felt by rural communities over the countries impending elections, the first in over two decades.