Opium production in Myanmar has stabilised for the third consecutive year, the United Nations said on December 15.
Myanmar produced 647 tonnes of opium in 2015, down from 670 tonnes in 2014, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said in its annual survey opium survey.
Opium production in Laos in 2015 was between 84 tonnes and 176 tonnes, according to UNODC estimates.
Myanmar is the biggest producer of opium in Southeast Asia and is the world’s second biggest producer of the drug, after Afghanistan. Opium is the raw material from which heroin is made.
“The region’s demand for heroin remains at unacceptably high levels and transnational organised crime groups are making huge profits,” said Jeremy Douglas, the UNODC regional representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific. “While the stabilisation of poppy cultivation in the past year is encouraging, the government-elect of Myanmar… have no choice but to face the underlying issues that allow opium cultivation and related trafficking to continue,” he said.
The Golden Triangle region where the borders of Myanmar, Thailand and Laos meet is notorious for drug production. As well as heroin, Myanmar also produces methamphetamine, known in Asia by its Thai name “ya ba.”
The UNODC report said 91 percent of the poppy grown in the Golden Triangle comes from Myanmar’s Shan State.
“The Golden Triangle is the geographic centre of the Greater Mekong Sub-region, and plans to expand transport connections and relax trade and border controls, including around opium producing areas, are either on the table or underway,” said Mr Douglas.
In the 1980s, Myanmar was the world’s largest producer of illicit opium, producing 700 tonnes between 1981 and 1987, and production continued to rise until 1996, said UNODC.
Afghanistan replaced Myanmar as the number one producer of opium in 1991.