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UNODC releases latest data on drug trends in SE Asia

Bangkok (Thailand), 13 December 2010
- The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for East Asia and the Pacific simultaneously released its Myanmar Situation Assessment on Amphetamine-Type Stimulants and its 2010 South-East Asia Opium Survey today.

Introducing both reports, Mr. Gary Lewis, UNODC Regional Representative for East Asia and the Pacific, explained that: "These reports represent a body of knowledge and information on drug control trends in our region. To tackle the drug problem we have to have a comprehensive understanding of the synthetic as well as opiate situation."

The Myanmar Situation Assessment, presented by Ms. Deepika Naruka, UNODC Regional Coordinator for the Global SMART Programme, shows that the impact of methamphetamine and other amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) trafficked from Myanmar extends not only to the immediate neighbouring countries but also to other countries in East and South-East Asia.

Ms. Naruka pointed out that: "There are indications that the methamphetamine problem in Myanmar is becoming more severe. In 2009, large seizures of high purity crystalline methamphetamine were made in Myanmar. Authorities in both Myanmar and Thailand confirm that the manufacture of crystalline methamphetamine is now occurring in the Golden Triangle."

The key findings of the 2010 South-East Asia Opium Survey were presented by Mr. Lewis.

The survey shows that in all three countries cultivation is up. When combined, the total cultivation increase is 22%. Of the three cultivating countries, Myanmar is by far the largest producer. When compared with the 2009 cultivation figure, the 2010 cultivation increased by 20% to reach 38,100 hectares. When converted at a yield of 16.2 kg per hectare (itself a 46% increase over the 2009 yield figure), this yields a total potential volume of opium which reaches 580 metric tons - up from 330 metric tons in 2009. The 2010 figure accounts for 16% of the world's total estimated illicit opium production. In 2009, Myanmar accounted for only 5% of total illicit opium production.

Speaking on those factors which have contributed to the increase in opium poppy cultivation in Myanmar, Mr. Lewis, said that: "Food security, and more specifically food insecurity is crucial. What we're seeing is that three-quarters of farmers are saying that they planted poppy to produce cash so that they can buy food. We define "food security" as the percentage of households that have enough rice for 12 months. By this measure, only 6 our of every 10 households in the parts of Shan State which grow poppy were food secure. In addition, the overall level insecurity related to the insurgency prevents many remote communities - where the poppy tends to be grown - from accessing support of any kind. Of all the villages we surveyed for this year's opium poppy report, only 13 per cent said that they had ever received any form of assistance."

Mr. Lewis indicated that a combination of engagement with the growing communities and the provision of development assistance are required to convince food-insecure farming communities that there are ways other than poppy to put food on the table. "Peace and development will come to be associated with better infrastructure, better healthcare, better education, better market access and more food security," Lewis said. "This pattern has occurred elsewhere in the world where we've witnessed the illicit cultivation of narcotic crops. There is no reason why Myanmar cannot also follow this path."

Also present at the launch were Mr. Leik Boonwaat, Deputy Regional Representative for East Asia and the Pacific and UNODC Representative for the Lao People's Democratic Republic as well as Mr. Jason Eligh, acting Country Manager for UNODC country office in Myanmar.

Mr. Boonwaat and Mr. Eligh both participated in the lively question and answer session that followed the presentations of the reports.