Opium production doubles in northern Shan State: PWO Skip to main content

Opium production doubles in northern Shan State: PWO

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – The Thailand-based Palaung Women Organization (PWO) says three drug kingpins have doubled opium production in a region in Shan State.

A file photo of an opium poppy field outside the village of Lowi Soi in the Lwe San Sone Mountains in Burma’s northern Shan State near the Chinese border. Photo: AFPThe PWO pointed a finger three people including local militia leaders who it said are involved in opium production in the region.

Lway Nway Hnoung, the general-secretary of the PWO, said opium production has increased in Nam Kham, Tamoe Nye and Nam Phatka townships of Shan State.

In Nam Kham Township, opium growing acres has increased from 15 villages in 2008-2009 with 1,535 acres to 27 villages in 2010-2011 with 2740 acres, according to a PWO report published on Tuesday called "Still Poisoned."

Lway, who also worked as a researcher for the report, said one of the drug lords told villagers to continue to grow opium for five years and he would defend opium fields for them, the PWO report said.

The report said the drug-addicted population is also increasing in the area: it found 750 drug addicts last year, 68 per cent of the male population over the age of 15, and for this year, it had increased to 1,200 in number or 92 per cent of the male population over the age of 15 in the region.

The PWO said the field research was conducted over a two-year period from early last year until July of this year, and the researchers collected facts from interviews with local villagers, drug users, village headmen and members of local militia.

The villages of Pan Say, Ta-Gun, Satant (Lower), Mai Po, Mai Wi, San Kha, Man Sap, Pan Kha, Nam Saree, and others are opium growing villages in the region. The report estimated a household may grow three acres at a minimum. A household growing opium at a business level can grow 10 acres, the PWO said.   

U Mai Own Khine, the general secretary of Ta’ang (Palaung) National Party (TNP), told Mizzima that he is aware opium production is increasing in Nam Kham Township, but he doesn't know how much.

"I hear there are more opium plantations. But our party can't conduct a field survey. Our party is still discussing how we can tackle the drug problem."

The TNP contested in the 2010 elections in five townships of Shan State, but it lost in Nam Kham, Kut Kai, Kyauk Mae townships and won seats in Man Ton and Man Sap townships.

The PWO said restrictions on traditional tea business have deteriorated tea market in the region and forced locals to choose opium plantations as an alternative livelihood.

The authorities allow drug traffickers to operate freely and arrest the drug users, but many of them are released after bribing law enforcement personnel. The police and militia forces take at least 150,000 to 250,000 kyat as bribe payments to release those detained.

The opium growing season usually begins in August and opium farmers are ready to shred opium fruit in February and April. Authorities usually collect unofficial taxes in December, prior to harvesting time, and the farmers are forced to pay at least 15,000 kyat bribes or their farms could be destroyed.

A United Nations Office of Drug and Crime (UNODC) survey in 2009 reported 23 villages of Northern Shan State were growing opium with 1,600 hectares, which increased to 3,700 hectares in 2010.

However, according to the PWO report, 892 hectares of opium were cultivated in Nam Kham Township alone over the same time period. Since the UNODC relies heavily on government data, the PWO questioned the independence of the UNODC survey in Shan State.

The Palaung Women’s Organization (PWO) was established in 2000 to recognize women’s rights and women participation in different level of political and social tasks, with the intention of achieving gender equality, justice, peace and a democratic society.

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