UN report reconfirms link between conflict and opium in Myanmar

A new United Nations report has reconfirmed the link between the conflict and opium in Myanmar with the insecure areas with active insurgencies remains ‘safe haven’ for drug traders with opium produce at levels similar to 2015.

The Myanmar Opium Survey 2017 released on Wednesday by UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), however, found the total area of opium poppy cultivation in the country has decreased significantly in 2017 to 41,000 hectares, down 25% from the 55,500 recorded in 2015.

The reductions have been most significant in East Shan with a drop of 37% and South Shan with a drop of 29%.

Areas under opium poppy cultivation in Myanmar (ha), 2017. UNODC

“Myanmar has taken important steps to address opium cultivation, especially in South Shan where we are running a programme together,” said Troels Vester, Country Manager of the UNODC.

But, the report also revealed that while progress has been made, North Shan and Kachin states have seen reductions of less than 3% and 7%, which on the ground amounts to a decrease of only 600 hectares in total.

“As long as significant parts of Shan and Kachin remain unstable and basically autonomous from the rest of the country and region, the environment will remain a safe haven for those who run the drug trade,” said UNODC Regional Representative Jeremy Douglas.

The decline in opium cultivation occurs against the backdrop of a changing regional drug market that has seen a fall in opium and heroin prices over recent years, as most countries in East and Southeast Asia report a shift toward synthetic drugs and especially methamphetamine.

UNODC stated that there is still a huge amount of work to be done and sustained support will be critical to its efforts.

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