Wed 29 Jun 2005
Filed under: Drugs,News
Bangkok: Southeast Asia’s one-time opium kingdoms of Laos and Myanmar dramatically reduced their narcotics production in 2004, and the region could see itself opium-free in coming years, the United Nations said Wednesday in its world drug report.
Southeast Asia’s opium production has plummeted 78 percent since 1996, helped last year by Myanmar’s 23 percent reduction in the land used for poppy cultivation and a 43 percent plunge in neighbouring Laos, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) annual report said.
Production in the region, once famed for the “Golden Triangle” drug nexus where parts of Laos, Myanmar and Thailand meet, was forecast to decline further in 2005.
“If the declines witnessed over the last few years are sustained, it would not be too far outside the realm of possibility that Southeast Asia could become virtually free of illicit cultivation over the next few years,” the report said.
UNODC regional project coordinator John Doyle said the regional decline in opium was one of the world’s eradication success stories, but that it was virtually negated by what the report described as “record levels” of opium production in top heroin source Afghanistan.
“For opiates, the overall story is a major decline in this region which continues, counterbalanced by a significant increase in Afghanistan,” Doyle told a press briefing launching the report.
In its 2005 opium poppy survey released earlier this month, the UNODC said Laos was “no longer a supplier of illegal opiates to the world market,” and that poppy cultivation in the communist state stood at 1,800 hectares (about 4,500 acres), down from 6,600 hectares a year earlier.
Royal-backed farming projects had caused opium production in northern Thailand to fall from 150 metric tons in 1964 to 1.2 metric tons last year, according to Chartchai Suthiklom, deputy secretary of Thailand’s Office of the Narcotics Control Board.
“We have the ultimate goal that in 2008 we will have no opium cultivation in our country,” Chartchai said.
The annual report warned, however, that Southeast Asia was reeling from increased production and use of methamphetamines, and that illicit narcotics use was helping spread HIV/AIDS.
HIV is prevalent among up to 92.3 percent of injecting drug users in South Asia and Southeast Asia, and up to 84 percent of users in East Asia and the Pacific, the report said.