In July the First Southeast Asia Opium Farmers Forum was held, bringing together some 30 representatives of local communities involved in opium cultivation and local community workers from the major opium growing regions in Southeast Asia.
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.
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.
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 voice of communities involved in illicit cultivation had long been excluded from policymaking platforms. However, thanks to growing networks such as the Myanmar Opium Farmers Forum, more and more farmers have gained more space to provide input to drug policy discussions at the UN level.
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.
For most farmers and their families, opium cultivation is a means of survival, especially in the context poverty, insecurity, and repression. This film sensitively portrays the lives of two opium farming families in Myanmar and sheds light on their plight.
The problem of opium should not be perceived only as a simple, black-and-white, law enforcement problem. To address problems related to opium cultivation, substantial socio-economic development is required to provide meaningful alternatives for farmers, and to ensure that a humanitarian crisis will not occur as the consequence of repressive drug control policies.
From 16 to 18 October 2019, representatives of member states, intergovernmental organisations, and civil society attended the 6th Intersessional Meeting of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. On 17 October 2019, representatives of coca and opium growers from Colombia and Myanmar delivered statements highlighting the situation of communities involved in the illicit cultivation of coca and opium in both countries. Below are their full statements.
Between 26 and 28 May 2018, representatives of opium farming communities in several states in Myanmar came together in Lashio, Shan State, to share experiences, concerns, and initiatives on the issue of illicit cultivation, especially in relation with supply-side policies which have affected their lives and livelihoods. A final statement was concluded at the end of the forum.
There is genuine hope that by sharing her story as a woman who grows opium, Nang Kham could help encourage other women farmers to speak out, and encourage the wider community to realise the collective benefits of gender equality.
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.