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Myanmar leads rise in opium poppy cultivation in South-East Asia – UN

Article / Review by on December 15, 2011 – 8:55 pmNo Comments

Myanmar leads rise in opium poppy cultivation in South-East Asia – UN survey

Poppy fieldPoppy field

A United Nations survey launched today points to “significant” increases in opium poppy cultivation in Myanmar and Laos, and calls for greater investment to support alternative livelihoods.

The 2011 South-East Asia Opium Survey, released today in Bangkok by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), says that cultivation in the region jumped from some 42,000 hectares to almost 48,000 – a 16 per cent increase over 2010.

Yury Fedotov, UNODC’s Executive Director, noted that the high prices for opium in Laos and Thailand, as well as steep price increases in Myanmar, are making production attractive to farmers. This requires the creation of alternative livelihoods to wean farmers off opium poppy cultivation, he added.

Although the international community has supported alternative development for many years, and with great success, there is a need for increased investment. 

“Although the international community has supported alternative development for many years, and with great success, there is a need for increased investment,” said Mr. Fedotov.

Opium poppy cultivation has doubled in South-East Asia since 2006, the agency noted. Myanmar accounted for 91 per cent of cultivation in the region, with Laos taking nine per cent.

Myanmar remained the second largest poppy-crop grower and opium producer in the world after Afghanistan. Cultivation in Myanmar climbed for the fifth year in a row, rising by 14 per cent this year over 2010. The rise was even steeper in Laos, at 38 per cent.

“In Myanmar, there is a need for more programmes that support alternative development for opium poppy growers,” said Mr. Fedotov. “These programmes must also take into account the issues of poverty reduction, environmental protection, food security and improved social and economic conditions as key objectives.

“Indeed, these projects are a necessity because reductions in illicit crop cultivation and opium production can bring tangible benefits to the lives of ordinary people,” he added.


About UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)

UNODC is a global leader in the fight against illicit drugs and international crime. Established in 1997 through a merger between the United Nations Drug Control Programme and the Centre for International Crime Prevention, UNODC operates in all regions of the world through an extensive network of field offices. UNODC relies on voluntary contributions, mainly from Governments, for 90 per cent of its budget.

UNODC is mandated to assist Member States in their struggle against illicit drugs, crime and terrorism. In the Millennium Declaration, Member States also resolved to intensify efforts to fight transnational crime in all its dimensions, to redouble the efforts to implement the commitment to counter the world drug problem and to take concerted action against international terrorism.

The three pillars of the UNODC work programme are:

  • Field-based technical cooperation projects to enhance the capacity of Member States to counteract illicit drugs, crime and terrorism
  • Research and analytical work to increase knowledge and understanding of drugs and crime issues and expand the evidence base for policy and operational decisions
  • Normative work to assist States in the ratification and implementation of the relevant international treaties, the development of domestic legislation on drugs, crime and terrorism, and the provision of secretariat and substantive services to the treaty-based and governing bodies

In pursuing its objectives, UNODC makes every effort to integrate and mainstream the gender perspective, particularly in its projects for the provision of alternative livelihoods, as well as those against human trafficking.

Overview of the technical assistance provided by UNODC

The international community confronts a host of menaces, including illicit drugs, threats to security and health and new and emerging crimes. As Governments and other development partners increasingly look to UNODC for specialized assistance and expertise, the Office has expanded it scope and volume of work to provide comprehensive and coherent responses to these challenges.

UNODC has released a new Menu of Services published in October 2010, which provides a detailed overview of how clients can access targeted assistance or the range of publications and online tools available

UNODC can help in the following areas:

Organized crime and trafficking
UNODC helps Governments react to the instability and insecurity caused by crimes like the smuggling of illicit drugs, weapons, natural resources, counterfeit goods and human beings between countries and continents. It is also addressing emerging forms of crime, such as cybercrime, trafficking in cultural artefacts and environmental crime.

Corruption is a major impediment to economic and social development, UNODC partners with the public and private sectors, as well as civil society, to loosen the grip that corrupt individuals have on government, national borders and trading channels. In recent years, the Office has stepped up its efforts to help States recover assets stolen by corrupt officials.

Crime prevention and criminal justice reform
UNODC promotes the use of training manuals and the adoption of codes of conduct and standards and norms that aim to guarantee that the accused, the guilty and the victims can all rely on a criminal justice system that is fair and grounded on human rights values. A strong rule of law will also instill confidence among citizens in the effectiveness of the courts and the humanness of the prisons.

Drug abuse prevention and health
Through educational campaigns and by basing its approach on scientific findings, UNODC tries to convince youth not to use illicit drugs, drug-dependent people to seek treatment and Governments to see drug use as a health problem, not a crime.

Terrorism prevention
On this issue, UNODC is moving towards a more programmatic approach that involves developing long-term, customized assistance to entities involved in investigating and adjudicating cases linked to terrorism.

UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Logo


> United Nations (UN).

The General Assembly in session. Photo credit: UN / Eskinder Debebe The United Nations was established on 24 October 1945 by 51 countries committed to preserving peace through international cooperation and collective security. Today, nearly every nation in the world belongs to the UN: membership totals 192 countries.

When States become Members of the United Nations, they agree to accept the obligations of the UN Charter, an international treaty that sets out basic principles of international relations. According to the Charter, the UN has four purposes:

  • to maintain international peace and security;
  • to develop friendly relations among nations;
  • to cooperate in solving international problems and in promoting respect for human rights;
  • and to be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations.


* The above story is adapted from materials provided by United Nations (UN)
** More information at United Nations (UN)

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