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Development Key to Opium-Free Golden Triangle, says UNODC


Opium Poppy Cultivation in South East Asia: Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand (2008) BANGKOK (Thailand), 2 February 2009 - Southeast Asia's progress in reducing opium production is under threat, as confirmed by the annual UNODC survey revealing a recent upswing in opium cultivation during the 2008 growing season.

Southeast Asia's opium poppy reduction successes have been built upon decades of successful alternative development work in rural communities. Milestones during the previous decade have been the elimination of opium production in Vietnam (2000) and Thailand (2003). In 2005, Lao PDR was declared opium-free. Until recently, Myanmar had also witnessed a continuous decline of opium production.

However, as a result of a loss of opium-generated income, families which used to grow opium are now facing difficult living conditions - often with widespread food shortages for several months of the year. With high levels of poverty, the recent rapid increase in the price of raw opium and an absence of effective law enforcement, there is a high risk of a return to opium poppy cultivation in these communities of Southeast Asia, which still represents 15% of global illicit poppy cultivation.

To present the findings of the survey Opium Poppy Cultivation in South East Asia - which has been carried out in coordination with the governments of Lao PDR, Myanmar and Thailand - UNODC has organized a press conference on the 2nd of February, with Gary Lewis, Representative of the Regional Centre for East Asia and the Pacific and Leik Boonwaat, Representative of the Country Office in Lao PDR to answer questions. Specific questions concerning the Thai situation were addressed to Mr. Pitaya Jinawat, Deputy Secretary General of the Office of the Narcotics Control Board of Thailand.

Approximately 90 participants among journalists, government officials, diplomatic corps, and development partners actively attended the conference and the open floor question-time, focusing specifically on the drug routes, the challenges of alternative development, the potential future trends, and the response that UNODC can provide to the human security challenges.