Myanmar at risk as opium production rises, UN agency warns

Myanmar at risk as opium production rises, UN agency warns
An Afghan security force member destroys an illegal poppy crop in the Noor Gal district of eastern Kunar province on April 29, 2014.

The area under opium poppy cultivation in Myanmar covered 57,800 hectares last year, continuing increases in cultivation that started after 2006, according to the 2014 World Drug Report of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Released yesterday, the report showed that the area is one-fourth of total cultivation area, which stayed at 209,000 hectares in 2013 from 154,000 in 2012. Afghanistan produces some 5,500 tonnes or up to 80 per cent of global opium production.

After showing a dramatic increase between 2008 and 2011, heroin seizures leveled off in 2012 and 2013 suggesting a stable trend, but remain at very high levels with a little over 9 metric tonnes seized per year. These seizures coincide with rebounding opium poppy cultivation in the Golden Triangle, where increases year-on-year have been reported since 2006, and cultivation stands at more than 60,000 hectares.

Heroin remains a major drug of concern in several countries in the region including China, Malaysia, Myanmar and Vietnam, the report said.

The report showed that East, Southeast and South Asia continued to be a source of supply of pseudoephedrine and ephedrine used in illicit manufacture of methamphetamine in the region and other parts of the world.

"Countries in the region and international partners need to significantly scale-up cooperation and technical assistance in precursor control," said Jeremy Douglas, UNODC regional representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

Around 243 million individuals, or 5 per cent of the world's population aged 15-64, used illicit drugs in the past year. Problem drug users meanwhile numbered about 27 million, roughly 0.6 per cent of the world's adult population, or one in every 200 people.

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