In Brief: UNODC warning on opium cultivation in Myanmar
A growing concern for the region
BANGKOK, 24 June 2011 (IRIN) - A rapid increase in opium cultivation in Myanmar's eastern and southern areas of Shan State since 2009 is an alarming trend for Southeast Asia, says a new report
by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on 24 June.
“The resurgence of opium cultivation is a great concern for the region,” Gary Lewis, UNODC’s regional representative for East Asia and the Pacific, told IRIN.
Opium production in Myanmar has increased by 250 tons - from 330 in 2009 to 580 currently. “Poor farmers in Shan State turn to poppy farming, knowing the risks, because they need a cash income to buy rice and pay back debts incurred to feed their families,” Lewis explained. To reduce cultivation of the drug, “farmers need to be given alternatives,” he said.
The East Asia-Pacific region has three million injecting drug users, 600,000 of whom have become infected with HIV as a result, according to UNODC.