The Palaung Women Organization, estimate in their recent report that opium cultivation and production in northern Shan State this year will double that of previous years.
The PWO report ‘Still Poisoned’ released in October this year noted that under the current government, opium cultivation in Namkham Township in northern Shan State has doubled that of crops produced in 2009.
Lway Nway Hnoung, general secretary of the PWO spoke to Karen News and said.
“In the areas of Namhkham Township, some villages that have never grown poppy before are growing it now.”
The PWO report found that in 2011 poppy growing is increasing in Namhkham, Mongton, Kukhaing, Kyauk Mae and Tamoe Nyae Townships. The report cited local villagers saying they are growing poppy to earn enough money to feed their families.
The report accused government officials of allowing local villagers to grow opium poppies and noted that officials are directly profiting from the drug trade.
The reports cites Pansay, in Namkham Township, as one of the biggest poppy growing areas and says it is under the constituency a member of parliament, U Kyaw Myint, a member of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party.
The report estimates that in 2009-2010 there were a thousand acres of poppy field that has now increased to 1,400 acres.
The report alleges that U Kyaw Myint, the local MP, who is also a former militia leader, promised local villagers during his election campaign that he would let them grow opium freely for five years if they voted for him.
The PWO, Lway Nway Hnoung said that as there is the increase of opium cultivation, the rate of local villagers addicted to opium has also doubled within the last two years. “The majority are men, but women are also using it. We don’t know the exact rate as we haven’t yet done any survey on the issue.”
The United Nation Office of Drugs and Crime stated in their 2010 survey that the rate of the use of opium in northern Shan State is around 1.2 %.
The Palaung Women Organization is a grassroots women group based on the Thai-Burma border that has been monitoring opium cultivation in Shan State since 2006. Previous reports were titled ‘Poisoned Flowers, (2006), ‘Poisoned Hills’ (2010) and ‘Still Poisoned’ (2011).