The fight against narcotics faces increasing challenges amid a bumper poppy harvest in Burma this year, Chinese officials said on Tuesday, which marked International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
Burma’s poppy growing area increased to 44,867 hectares this year, up 41 percent year-on-year, based on figures from the Chinese Ministry of Public Security, said an article in China Daily, the official Chinese newspaper.
Apart from being the world’s No. 2 producer of opium, behind Afganistan, northern Burma is also a major producer of methamphetamine, commonly referred to as “ice,” coming into China and Southeast Asia countries.
China seized 7.9 metric tons of “ice” coming from northern Burma last year, up 62 per cent on the previous year. It accounted for 55 percent of all methamphetamine seized in China, said police officials.
Smuggled drugs in the area mainly come the Golden Triangle, one of the world's major drug producing regions that overlaps the mountains of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand, and the Golden Crescent region, which includes mountain valleys of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In response, China has established a case-by-case cooperation mechanism with Burma, officials said. Four police liaison offices have also been set up in border areas to facilitate investigations.
China and Burma have arrested and repatriated about 60 fugitives since 2009, including drug lords, according to figures by the ministry.
On Tuesday, authorities in southwest China's Yunnan Province reported detaining 167 suspects in drug-related crimes and seized 528 tonnes of precursor chemicals used to make illegal drugs in the province last year.
A Yunnan provincial anti-narcotics office said border towns have become a key channel for smuggling drugs into and out of the province, and there are many underground narcotic manufacturing workshops just outside the border.
In related news, Laotian Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong released a document on Tuesday outlining his vision of combating drug abuse and cultivation, local media reported.
Thammavong focused on seven steps to tackle the drug problem in Laos, the Vientiane Times reported, such as raising awareness, providing opium growers with alternative cash crops, rehabilitating addicts, fostering grass- roots political and rural anti-drug campaigns, setting up provincial funds financing anti-drug programs, improving drug inspection and control organizations, and increased cooperation with international organizations.
In 2006, the article said, Laos had almost totally eradicated opium poppy cultivation, reducing the cultivation area by 94 percent from 27,000 hectares to just 1,500 hectares. Addiction rates dropped 80 percent from 63,000 people to 12,000, the article said.
However, from 2007 to 2011 there was a 173 percent increase from 1, 500 hectares to 4,100 hectares, the article said, while other illegal substances are increasingly being produced and trafficked in Laos, such as amphetamine type substances (ATS), pseudoephedrine, heroin and marijuana. Pseudoephedrine is an important precursor in the manufacture of methamphetamine.
In 2010 24.5 million ATS tablets were seized, and a further six million tablets were seized in the first half of this year in Laos, officials said. High levels of seizure give little indication of the amount on average being trafficked, however.