Myanmar's opium war

A United Nations report published last year said opium cultivation has surged in Myanmar and Laos as high prices attract impoverished farmers to grow the illicit crop, particularly in conflict areas.

The study by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), using helicopter, satellite and village surveys, said there was a 16 per cent increase in the amount of Southeast Asian land sown with poppies in 2011 since just last year.

The vast majority of it takes place in military-dominated Myanmar, the second largest opium poppy grower in the world after Afghanistan.

Some 256,000 households in Myanmar - significantly more than in Afghanistan - are involved in the crop's cultivation, which mostly takes place in northeastern Shan state, the UNODC said.

"What is driving the poppy increase is food insecurity, poverty, conflict that's raging in that part of Myanmar and the high prices that are available for people who wish to cultivate," said the UNODC's regional representative Gary Lewis.

Myanmar has said it aims to eradicate illegal drugs by 2014.

Click on thumbnail to view (Photos: Reuters)