Southeast Asia: Drug War Success Means Poverty for Laotian Farmers 2/24/06

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A program to eradicate opium farming in Laos has been so successful that farmers there are in dire need of economic assistance, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported last week. Laos was the world's third-largest opium producer in the mid-1990s, but production has dropped 93% since then thanks to the cooperation of the Laotian government, the UNODC said.

Land-locked Laos is one of the world's poorest countries with an average per capita income of less than $6 a day. As part of the legendary Southeast Asian Golden Triangle of opium, Laos and its peasant farmers benefited financially from the opium trade. Now that source of income has largely vanished, and farmers are hurting, UNODC head Antonio Maria Costa acknowledged.

"The progress that Laos has made is quite dramatic," Costa said. But those who have seen their livelihoods destroyed by eradication should be compensated, he said. "We have a collective responsibility to ensure that the poorest of the poor are not the ones who pay the price for successes in drug control." The country is at a "critical juncture" if it is to stay essentially poppy-free, Costa added.

anti-opium posters, Nejat Center, Kabul, Afghanistan
Opium production in the Golden Triangle (parts of Thailand, Laos, and Burma, or Myanmar) has declined 78% in the past decade, with Thailand declared opium free in 1993 and Laotian cultivation declining to 4,500 acres last year compared to more than 60,000 acres in 1998.

But the price of freedom from poppies is eternal vigilance, said Costa. "Even some 10 years after Thailand and Vietnam officially eliminated opium, they still have to eradicate many hectares of opium poppy every year."

Meanwhile, the peasant farmers and drug traffickers of Afghanistan have taken up the burden of supplying the world's junkies with their fixes. That war-torn country now accounts for nearly 90% of world supply, which is at record levels despite the dramatic reductions in the Golden Triangle.

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Issue #424 -- 2/24/06

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Feature: The Olympics Meets the War on Drugs | Feature: Maryland Delegate Introduces Bill to Ease State Aid for Students Affected by Federal Drug Provision | Feature: From the East Bay, the Cannabis Culture Speaks | Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories | Ayahuasca: Supreme Court Okays Use of Psychedelic Tea in Church Rituals | Prohibition: The Wall Street Journal Wavers | Medical Marijuana: Illinois Bill Moving, Passes Senate Committee | Medical Marijuana: New Mexico Bill Dies in House as Time Runs Out | Southeast Asia: Drug War Success Means Poverty for Laotian Farmers | Canada: British Columbia's New Democrats Say Legalize It | Search and Seizure: Florida Appeals Court Restricts Warrantless Drug Dog Searches | Celebrity Mouth: Bruce Willis Declares War on Cocaine | Web Scan: Cannabinoids for Cancer Treatment, Perjury in Police Misconduct | Weekly: This Week in History | Job Opportunity: Community Liaison, PreventionWorks!, Washington, DC | Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar

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