Report Launch: South-East Asia - worrying trends on opium poppy cultivation
Bangkok (Thailand), 14 December 2009 - The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime held a press conference today to launch the findings of the latest annual survey of "
Opium Poppy Cultivation in South East Asia".
The survey was conducted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in coordination with the governments of Lao PDR and Myanmar. It revealed a troubling increase in opium cultivation in Myanmar despite the considerable efforts made by countries of the region and their international partners.
The results of the survey were presented by the UNODC Regional Representative for East Asia and the Pacific Mr. Gary Lewis, and the Representative of the Country office in Lao PDR, Mr. Leik Boonwaat.
In introducing the regional situation, Mr. Lewis commented that "although we have had a reversal in terms of regional cultivation this year, we must not lose sight of the fact that, overall, the international cultivation and production of drugs is being contained." Mr. Lewis pointed to the fact that this year witnessed the second successive decline in production in Afghanistan but urged the countries of the region and the international donor community to maintain its support to poor, poppy-growing communities which needed assistance to help move away from cultivating the crop. "We have seen cultivation increase in Myanmar for a third year in a row", he said, "we must not allow the considerable drug control gains of the past several years to be reversed." The Governments of the region and the international donors must therefore remain steadfast in their commitment to fund and support food security and alternative development projects in order to allow poor farmer viable options to provide for their families.".
Mr. Leik Boonwaat also added that "in the Lao PDR, support to effective implementation of the Comprehensive National Drug Control Master Plan (2009-2013) is crucial to ensure sustainable elimination of illicit opium. At the same time, address the threat of increasing transnational trafficking of other drugs such as heroin and ATS and the challenges of increasing drug abuse and related crime that threaten socioeconomic development and attainment of the MDGs".
Once known as the Golden Triangle, the area where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos meet, until 2006 there was an encouraging decline of opium production. Southeast Asia managed to contain the problem. Quoting this years' opium survey, in Myanmar the total amount of opium hectares has increased by 11% over the past year, and by almost 50% since 2006. The UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa states that the rise in the opium market is largely due to the increased instability in north-eastern Myanmar, with militia ceasefire groups selling drugs to buy weapons.
The press conference was attended by over 100 representatives of government and non-governmental organizations, diplomatic representatives and members of the media.