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. Farmers and community representatives from Chin, Kachin, Kayah, Kayan, Pa-O, Shan and Ta-ang (Palaung) ethnic communities took part in the forum.
Current drug control polices in South-east Asia are repressive and criminalise opium farmers, greatly affecting the lives of communities cultivating opium. Most policy responses – including from some armed opposition groups – focus on eradication of poppy fields and the implementation of strict bans on opium cultivation. As these communities depend on opium as a cash crop to solve immediate food security problems and sustain their livelihoods, such repressive policies are driving communities further into poverty. Currently only very few Alternative Development (AD) programmes are offered to opium-growing communities to address these problems. Furthermore, opium cultivation often takes place in conflict-affected areas, and links between drugs and conflict affect local communities.
Until now these communities have had little or no influence on the design of the drug control policies that have great impact on their lives and livelihoods. They have also had little participation in the design, implementation and monitoring and evaluation of AD programmes that are supposed to help them. The forum’s aim was to identify the main concerns of opium farmers, and formulate alternative policy options that respect the rights of producer communities and involve them in the decision-making processes. To this end the forum adopted a statement with recommendations to policy makers nationally and internationally.
The meeting was held under Chatham House rules because of the sensitivity of the subject, and the names and places of origin of the participants remain confidential. This report reflects participants’ views and captures the main conclusions and recommendations that emerged from the forum.
At the end of the forum the farmers issued a statement with recommendations to policy makers nationally and internationally. The forum also agreed on follow-up activities that would help draw attention to the challenges they face.