Myanmar Opium Farmers' Forum report published today

14 December 2015
Press release

Today the Myanmar Opium Farmers' Forum released the report of its third meeting. The report stresses that farmers grow opium to ensure food security for their families and to provide for basic needs, and to have access to health and education. According to the report, "The large majority of opium farmers are not rich and grow it for their survival. Therefore, they should not be treated as criminals."

The report also stresses that opium has many positive values. "As there are few health facilities in our areas, and we use opium as a traditional medicine for diarrhea, coughing, as a painkiller and to keep us safe from poisonous insects. For some of us, we believe it protects us from evil and if offered to spirits it will bring good luck. We also use it to treat sick animals."

"The main reason people grow opium is poverty. Therefore, opium farmers should not be treated as criminals. They should be involved in decision-making processes about drug policies and development programmes that are affecting their lives," said Tom Kramer, the coordinator of TNI's Drugs & Democracy Programme in Myanmar.

On some areas, poppy farmers face the risk of eradication of our poppy fields. "In absence of sustainable alternative income sources, eradication of smallholder farmers constitutes a violation of their right to be free from hunger and live a life in dignity", said Martin Jelsma, TNI's programme director.

"The new Myanmar government should introduce policies that support opium farmers rather then criminalising them. Myanmar's harsh drug laws should be reformed and made more humane", said Tom Kramer.

The Third Myanmar Opium Farmers' Forum was held in September 2015 in Pyin Oo Lwin, Myanmar. It brought together around 30 representatives of local communities involved in poppy cultivation in Myanmar's major opium growing regions: Chin State, Kachin State, northern and southern Shan State and Kayah State.

For more information: 

Tom Kramer: tkramer@tni.org
Martin Jelsma: mjelsma@tni.org