Burma/Myanmar is undergoing yet another humanitarian crisis while entering a new critical political stage. In the Kokang region, an opium ban was enforced in 2003, and since mid-2005 no more poppy growing has been allowed in the Wa region. Banning opium in these Shan State regions where most of the Burmese opiates were produced, adds another chapter to the long and dramatic history of drugs, conflict and human suffering.
Afghanistan is the world's largest producer of opium, the raw material for heroin. In 2000, the Taleban regime enforced an opium ban that led to the virtual disappearance of opium poppy cultivation in areas under their control. In drug control terms, this is often referred to as an unprecedented success, yet the ban caused a major humanitarian disaster for hundreds of thousands dependent on the illicit economy.
Drug control agencies have called the significant decline in opium production in Southeast Asia over the past decade a 'success story'. The latest report of the Transnational Institute (TNI). based on in-depth research in the region, casts serious doubts on this claim noting that Southeast Asia suffers from a variety of 'withdrawal symptoms' that leave little reason for optimism.
UNDCPs 1998 plan to eradicate the cultivation of both coca and opium poppy by the year 2008 was a rare opportunity to re-think current drugs efforts. Member states were asked to endorse a plan, known as SCOPE, for the eradication of drugs-linked crops by 2008. Is SCOPE viable? And what impact would it have on poor farmers who grow drugs-linked crops to survive?
On 11 and 12 September 2015 opium farmers and representatives of opium farming communities from Kayah State, Shan State, Kachin State and Chin State, came together in Upper Myanmar to discuss the drug policies affecting their lives. Following from the discussions the farmers issued a statement with recommendations to policy makers nationally and internationally.
In November 2004 an unknown mystery plane sprayed opium poppy fields in eastern Afghanistan. Although the US denied any involvement, the US State Department is pressing for aggressive aerial eradiction campaigns to counter the booming opium economy. Due to policy controversies the State Department had to back off. At least for the time being.
China’s opium crop substitution programme has very little to do with providing mechanisms to decrease reliance on poppy cultivation or provide alternative livelihoods for ex-poppy growers. Financing dispossession is not development.
Opium farmers and representatives of their communities came together to discuss the challenges they face in their lives, and to share experiences and find ways to solve their problems. This is their statement.
The voices of affected communities involved in the cultivation of coca leaf, opium poppy and cannabis plants are lacking in the global debate on drug policy reform in general and were at risk of being excluded from the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) 2016 on The World Drug Problem.
Peter Reuter (RAND), Franz Trautmann (Trimbos Institute) (eds.)
15 March 2009
This report commissioned by the European Commission, found no evidence that the global drug problem has been reduced during the period from 1998 to 2007 – the primary target of the 1998 UNGASS, which aimed to significantly reduce the global illicit drugs problem by 2008 through international cooperation and measures in the field of drug supply and drug demand reduction. Broadly speaking the situation has improved a little in some of the richer countries, while for others it worsened, and for some of those it worsened sharply and substantially', among which are a few large developing or transitional countries. Given the limitations of the data, a fair judgment is that the problem became somewhat more severe.
Why peasants from certain regions of the world cultivate the three plants – coca leaves, cannabis and opium poppy – that the international conventions have declared to be illicit? That was the essential question that was discussed at the First Global Forum of Producers of Crops Declared to be Illicit (FMPCDI), that took place in El Prat de Llobregat near Barcelona on January 29-31, 2009.
In a global meeting small scale farmers of cannabis, coca and opium from 14 countries discussed their contribution to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS). The UNGASS will discuss all aspects of global drug control policies, including the worldwide ban on the cultivation of coca, poppy and cannabis, an issue the Global Farmers Forum demands that their voices be heard and taken into account.
The Chinese Government's opium substitution programmes in northern Burma and Laos have prompted a booming rubber industry, but the beneficiaries have been a small few with many others losing their lands as a result.
Conflict and underdevelopment in the region have contributed to drug consumption and production, and are hampering access to treatment, care and support for drug users. Obstacles include curfews imposed by the national government, as well as punitive actions by armed opposition groups against drug users, and discrimination and stigmatization from the local population.
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.
In light of the April 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS), a change of the global order on drug policy should be made. Any outcome of UNGASS will have essential developmental impacts on Afghanistan’s economy and especially on those involved in the agricultural production side of the opium economy that is farmers and farm-workers.
The recently-released “Myanmar Opium Survey 2018” by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) entails specific accusations against several of the conflict actors. This commentary explains how this further distorts, rather than reflects, the complex realities in Myanmar.
In its 2006 World Drug Report, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) struggles to construct success stories to convince the world that the global drug control regime has been an effective instrument. An escape-route used in this year's World Drug Report is to fabricate comparisons with higher opium production levels a century ago and with higher prevalence figures for tobacco.