Commonly found in Southeast Asia including in Myanmar, leaves from the kratom tree have long been used as a traditional medicine to treat various health conditions, including diabetes, diarrhoea, fever and pain. Kratom is currently banned in Myanmar, and the WHO's Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) is discussing this week whether it should be placed under international drug control. Instead of criminalisation, however, this commentary argues that legal regulation of kratom could contribute to building safer communities, promoting development and supporting peace efforts in Myanmar and beyond.
Myanmar is better known for its serious drug problems - including large-scale illicit drugs production and trafficking and high rates of heroin use - than for implementing progressive drug policies that prioritise the health of its population. However, this could change in the near future.