San Francisco Chronicle

Myanmar opium output surging

- By David Rising

BANGKOK — The production of opium in Myanmar has flourished since the military's seizure of power, with the cultivatio­n of poppies up by a third in the past year as eradicatio­n efforts have dropped off and the faltering economy has led more people toward the drug trade, according to a United Nations report.

In 2022, in the first full growing season since the military wrested control of the country from the democratic­ally elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in 2021, Myanmar saw a 33% increase in cultivatio­n area to 99,090 acres, according to the report, released Thursday, by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.

“Economic, security and governance disruption­s that followed the military takeover of February 2021 have converged, and farmers in remote, often conflict-prone areas in northern Shan and border states have had little option but to move back to opium,” said the U.N. office's regional representa­tive Jeremy Douglas.

The overall value of the Myanmar opiate economy, based on U.N. estimates, ranges between $660 million and $2 billion, depending on how much was sold locally, and how much of the raw opium was processed into heroin or other drugs.

“Virtually all the heroin reported in East and Southeast Asia and Australia originates in Myanmar, and the country remains the second-largest opium and heroin producer in the world after Afghanista­n,” Douglas said.

The so-called Golden Triangle area, where the borders of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand meet, has historical­ly been a major production area for opium and labs that converted it to heroin.

Most of the opium exported by Myanmar goes to China and Vietnam, while heroin goes to many countries across the region, Douglas said.

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