Civil Liberties

Myanmar Is Losing Its Drug War, Too


Poppy field
Credit: (MarilynJane /

Opium production in Myanmar is surging despite the best efforts of the country's government and providers of foreign aid, reports the AP's Jocelyn Gecker. Opium, heroin, and meth, she writes, "are surging across Myanmar's borders in quantities that the United Nations and police in neighboring countries say are the highest levels in years."

Why? Because the alternatives are few and not nearly as lucrative as poppy production:

A middle-aged farmer named Awa Wadaa grew opium for 20 years and was pulling in $3,500 a year in the five-month poppy season when the U.N. offered him a way out. In 2012, he worked year-round rotating crops of corn, potatoes and sunflowers, and earned just $500. 

Not only is opium more profitable, but its illegality is easily circumvented with the right amount of bribery. A 15 percent tax, or "paying respect," gets local authorities to turn a blind eye. Myanmar's neighbors are demanding that the country wage all-out war on traffickers and growers.