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Opium Production Increasing in Myanmar as Drug Cartels Gain Power

The war on drugs continues to wage on and it appears there is a winning and losing side – but not what you might expect. The United Nations has warned that drug control measures in Myanmar are unraveling as opium farming in the country has expanded for a third consecutive year.

A report in the New York Times cited an increase in the price of opium; political instability in the northernmost reaches of the country; and a desires of autonomous ethnic armies there to buy weapons were all plays a role in the 11 percent increase in the land used to cultivate opium.

This increase is in direct contrast with Afghanistan. This country has by far been the world’s largest suppliers of heroin. In the past three years, however, the amount of land under opium poppy cultivation has declined.

Myanmar is the world’s second-largest opium suppliers and accounts for roughly 20 percent of the total acreage worldwide. This equals roughly five percent of the global opium production.

Even with the increased production of opium, a report released by the United Nations has said opium poppy growers in Myanmar have become even less efficient over the past year. As a result, the amount of opium harvested has fallen by 28 percent.

While the political instability in both Afghanistan and Myanmar make it easier for drug syndicates to manufacture drugs and transport them across poorly guarded borders. Officials against the narcotic trade have reported a surge in heroin and methamphetamine trafficking out of Myanmar as armed ethnic groups and warlords in the northern reaches of the country liquidate their stockpiles for cash and weapons.

“What we are seeing in the last 10 years is a dramatic increase in the amount of networking that takes place between transnational crime syndicates,” said Gary Lewis, the head of the East Asian operations of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

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