Ernestien Jensema, Martin Jelsma, Tom Kramer, Nang Pann Ei Kham, Gloria Lai, Tripti Tandon
16 February 2015
The decision of the Myanmar Government to review drug laws is not only timely, but also offers a prospect to improve the drugs legislation and to ensure that the laws address drug-related problems in the country more effectively.
A decade ago, Myanmar seemed on course to wipe out the opium fields and heroin jungle labs along its eastern border, the notorious Golden Triangle. Today, valley after valley in these mist-shrouded mountains is covered with resplendent opium poppies, tended by farmers who perch on steep hillsides to harvest the plant’s sticky, intoxicating sap.
The strategy of Asean's 10 member countries to become "drug free" by 2015 is failing dramatically. In the last decade, opium cultivation in the region has doubled, drug use -- especially of methamphetamines, a powerful synthetic stimulant -- has increased significantly, and there remain strong links between drugs, conflict, crime and corruption.
A group of sickle-wielding vigilantes made its way through Myanmar’s northern Kachin State in January and February, clearing poppy fields nearly ready to be harvested in a quest to end production of the illicit drug. The mission turned farmers whose livelihoods were being cut down into angry and, at times, armed adversaries.