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According to the 2010
International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, Burma is the world's second
largest producer of illicit opium. Eradication efforts and implementation of
poppy-free zones by hill tribe growers reduced cultivation levels dramatically
between 1998 and 2006. But in 2007, a significant resurgence of cultivation
occurred and in 2008, the upward trend in cultivation and production continued.
The overall decline in poppy cultivation in Burma since 1996 has been
accompanied by a sharp increase in the local production and export of synthetic
drugs. Opium, heroin, and amphetamine-type substances are produced
predominantly in the border regions of Shan State and in areas controlled by
ethnic minority groups.
The International Narcotics Control Strategy Report notes that Burmese law
enforcement officials have achieved successes in 2009. Seizures are up,
including nearly thirteen-fold increase in the seizure of methamphetamine
tablets and sharp upward spikes in the amounts of precursor chemical seized.
In order for the reduction in poppy cultivation to be sustainable, a true opium
replacement strategy must combine a range of counternarcotics actions,
including crop eradication and effective law enforcement alternative
development options, support for former poppy farmers, and openness to outside
assistance. To reach its goals of eradicating all narcotics production and
trafficking by 2014, the Burmese government must seek to cooperate closely with
the ethnic groups currently involved in drug production and trafficking.
The International Narcotics Control Strategy Report also calls on Burma to
consider effective new steps to address the explosion of amphetamine-type
substances and production and trafficking from Burmese territory by gaining
closer cooperation from ethnic groups.
Increased international assistance could complement Burma's efforts in reducing
drug production and trafficking in Burma. But direct provision of assistance to
the Burmese government by many donors, including the United States, is
contingent on meaningful democratic change. The U.S. suspended direct
counternarcotics assistance to Burma in 1988 when the military overturned the
democratic election of the National League for Democracy. Now is the time for
the military regime of Burma to respect the voice of its people and allow a
democratic transition to begin.