[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index ][Thread Index ]

Reuters-Myanmar sees cut in opium p

Subject: Reuters-Myanmar sees cut in opium production this year

Myanmar sees cut in opium production this year
02:01 a.m. Feb 25, 1999 Eastern
By Rajan Moses

YANGON, Feb 25 (Reuters) - Myanmar, a major world producer of opium,
predicted on Thursday that stepped-up government suppression of poppy
growing in remote areas and bad weather would cut output of the drug sharply
this year.

``We expect production will drop by about 50 percent this year from an
estimated 680 tonnes in 1998,'' said Colonel Kyaw Thein, of the central
committee for drug abuse control.

Official data compiled last year showed Myanmar had 151,000 acres of poppy
fields, mainly in the north and east, which could produce enough opium to be
refined into 66.52 tonnes of heroin.

U.N. officials have estimated Myanmar's opium output at closer to 1,700
tonnes for 1998 and have said any declines that may have occurred were
mainly due to the weather.

Kyaw Thein said of that total acreage, about 40,000 acres of poppy fields
had been destroyed by the authorities so far and crop substitution
programmes launched for ex-poppy growers.

This year, another 6,000 acres of poppy fields were expected to be
destroyed. The northeastern Shan state is the biggest poppy growing area and
is part of the infamous Golden Triangle where the borders of Myanmar, Laos
and Thailand meet.

Most of the heroin refined in the Triangle by drug syndicates now heads for
Southeast Asia, Australia and Canada.

The Myanmar poppy season runs from around July each year. It takes about
three months for poppy plants to mature and bear opium.

``The weather this year has not been favourable for poppy cultivation, there
was very little rain and that will have an effect on yields,'' Kyaw Thein
told a news conference.

Kyaw Thein was speaking after a ceremony held to burn seized opium, heroin
and other drugs at a police compound witnessed by delegates attending an
Interpol conference on heroin in Yangon.

Home Minister Colonel Tin Hlaing and Interpol Director Paul Higdon set fire
to the cache which officials said included about four tonnes of raw opium
and 15.4 million amphetamine tablets.

They said the bonfire of narcotics was worth a total of over $200 million.

The controversial four-day Interpol conference has been boycotted by the
nations with the world's biggest markets for heroin -- the United States and
most European countries.

The United States and the Europeans said they feared Myanmar would use the
event to give a false impression of its drug suppression efforts to the
world. Some of the conference absentees also linked their refusal to attend
to Myanmar's poor human rights and political record.

Opponents of Myanmar have accused it of links to the drug trade and pointed
to its protection of well-known heroin traffickers such as Khun Sa and Lo

Khun Sa resides in Yangon under government protection and Lo is believed to
be involved in business in Myanmar.

Kyaw Thein defended Myanmar's harbouring of Khun Sa and Lo and said that
getting the duo out of the drug business had helped curb opium and heroin
flow from Shan state. It had also put Khun Sa's 20,000-strong
anti-government insurgency group out of business.

In reply to a question on the level of military and police corruption that
might have encouraged drug production in Myanmar, he said there was some
corruption at various levels. ``We have taken action against some...even up
to colonel level.''

Kyaw Thein flatly denied Western charges that drug money was being laundered
in Myanmar. ``We have no evidence of that. There is a lot of talk outside,
but it is only talk,'' he said.