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MYANMAR The opium boom in the shadow of war in Myanmar

According to UNODC data, there was record production in 2023, and the area allocated to this crop increased by 18%. The conflict itself becomes an incentive to replace extensive rice or corn plantations. The crop is refined locally and smuggled to neighboring countries to reach the global heroin market.

Bangkok () – The conflict in Myanmar fuels opium production, and it does so on two fronts: that of the resources necessary for the parties involved to continue what is today a full-blown civil war, and that of the “demand ” of the local population.

The available data show the extent of this increase, which has led local production areas to surpass those in Afghanistan in relevance, where the Taliban has hindered production since they took power in August 2021. According to UNODC sources ( United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime), in 2023, in often remote areas of the country and in the hands of local militias allied or rivals of the military junta in power, 1,080 tons of opium were produced against the 790 of 2022. A bumper crop, most of which is refined directly in the forests and mountains of Shan State into heroin, then smuggled into neighboring countries to reach the global market for an estimated value last year between 835 and 2.2 billion dollars.

The increase in production, encouraged by better cultivation techniques, is also a consequence of the conflict, which has partly limited extensive crops such as rice and corn and has made the use of communication routes and infrastructure that allowed transportation, distribution and storage. These conditions have little influence on the opium “industry”, which historically has had periods of rise and ebb.

In the years of fragile democracy between 2011 and 2020, there had been a significant setback in terms of cultivation and production of derivatives, but when the military regained control, the need for easy, more profitable productions and less exposed to the risks of conflict has increased. became a priority again. It is estimated that the area of ​​land dedicated to opium in 2023 was 47 thousand hectares, 18% more than in 2022.

The geographical reality and the presence of vast local and transnational interests never allowed production to completely disappear, and criminal groups, in these regions of difficult access and control, can invest with enormous benefits and little risk of repression by the authorities. who often pretend to ignore what is happening. Currently, a kilo of opium resin brings the farmer more than 300 euros, an attractive figure for someone who, as a salaried agricultural worker and under normal conditions, can aspire to 250,000 kyats (about 110 euros) per month, and is now forced, due to need or unemployment, to seek alternative resources.



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Written by Editor TLN

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