Opium production in the Golden Triangle continues at high levels, threatening regional integration
8 December 2014 - Opium poppy cultivation in Myanmar and Lao PDR rose to 63,800 hectares (ha) in 2014 compared to 61,200 ha in 2013, increasing for the eighth consecutive year and nearly tripling the amount harvested in 2006, according to the Southeast Asia Opium Survey 2014 - Lao PDR, Myanmar .
The report states that Myanmar remains Southeast Asia's top opium producer - and the world's second largest after Afghanistan. Together, Myanmar and Lao PDR produced an estimated 762 metric tons of opium, most of which - using smuggled precursor chemicals like acetyl anhydride - was refined into an estimated 76 tons of heroin and then trafficked to markets in neighbouring countries and outside the region.
Transnational crime groups are receiving profitable incentives due to the region's large demand for heroin. There is a two-way trade involving chemicals going in and heroin coming out of the Golden Triangle, challenging stability and the rule of law in the region. Not only are they bringing in the chemicals needed to make heroin, but are also are trafficking and distributing the drug to markets in China, Southeast Asia and other parts of the world.
Shan State in the north of Myanmar, home to a number of conflict areas and insurgent groups, remains the centre of Myanmar's opium and heroin activities, accounting for 89 per cent of opium poppy cultivation in the Golden Triangle. In Lao PDR, the survey confirms opium poppy cultivation in the three northern provinces of Phongsali, Xiangkhoang and Houaphan.
Economic surveys that were part of the report point out that for farmers in poppy-growing villages, the money generated from poppy crop cultivation is essential to prevent food insecurity and poverty, which illustrates the link between poverty, lack of alternative economic opportunities, and poppy cultivation.
The report also warned that the opium business and trade threatens regional integration. Development plans are underway to expand transport connections, and reduce trade barriers and border controls, including around opium producing areas. This carries the risk of providing organized crime networks opportunities to take advantage of the regional integration process.