The Transnational Institute's recent report says Myanmar has become a major producer of heroin and amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) and drug injection has been blamed for the spread of HIV/ AIDS.
According to the report, drug production and consumption trends have changed over the years. Myanmar, currently the second largest producer of raw opium after Afghanistan in the world, is now facing several serious drug-related challenges.
After a period of initial decline, poppy cultivation in the country has tripled again since 2006. To maintain basic needs including food, medicines, clothing and access to education, most of the poppy is cultivated as an income by impoverished ethnic minority communities such as Kachin and Shan in the country’s uplands.
“The situation [drug production and consumption] seems quite worse in our state [Shan State]. It is not happening now. It has happened for quite some times already. Here, it’s easy to buy drugs. For example, some NGOs even have to provide disposable needles to prevent the spread of infectious disease because the consumption rate seems high. On the negative side, free supply of disposable needles seems to be supporting illicit drug consumption. There are many ways to use the drugs including inhaling. Drug consumption is now rampant among Yangon youths. We will be discussing the drug issue in Parliament,” said Sai Nyunt Lwin, secretary for Shan National League for Democracy.
The report also mentioned that opium has been used as a painkiller where there is no access to essential medicines. Large quantities of opium are smuggled to neighboring countries and precursors to make heroin and ATS are not produced in Myanmar; these originated mainly from neighboring India and China.
“Myanmar has some serious drug problems. There are no reliable data available on number of drug users, drug consumption trends, drug use patterns, and drug use related health problems, as there has not been any national drug consumption survey. Many of them have serious health problems related to their drug use, including HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C,” according to the report.
“The illicit drug consumption in Shan State seems pretty high especially among youths. They [youths] use it [drug] as medicine. For instance, a driver use drug not to get tired while driving at night time. Now these days alcohol is being replaced with ATS at social parties because it’s easy to get it. The next step after using of ATS is heroin injection,” a local from Northern Shan State said.
According to the UN report, since signing a nationwide ceasefire agreement in1989, Myanmar’s poppy cultivation has been growing notably. Before 2002, most were grown in Shan State and later 40 to 59 percent of poppy cultivation was found in Kokang and Wa regions. UNODC expected that between 2008 and 2011, 50 percent of the country’s poppy cultivation was in Shan State which means the state itself has 90 percent of poppy cultivation.
The UN report also said that Myanmar is the second largest opium producer after Afghanistan in the world. Since 2006, opium producing rate in Golden Triangle – Myanmar, Laos and Thailand -- has increased sharply. Poverty is the main reason why locals from Shan and Kachin States are turning to poppy cultivation.