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Myanmar's War on Opium

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As Myanmar emerges from a half-century of isolation under a dictatorship, President Thein Sein's new civilian government has launched a series of reforms. At the top of the list is the eradication of widespread opium poppy farming. Myanmar produced an estimated 610 tons of opium in 2011, making it the world's second-biggest supplier after Afghanistan, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. In an unusually open gesture, Myanmar officials allowed a Reuters reporter and photographer to visit former conflict areas, hoping they will examine the campaign and help shed Myanmar's image as one of the world's top drug producers. But the eradication process threatens the livelihoods of poor farmers who depend upon opium as a cash crop. With those concerns in mind, and with recent ceasefires ending years of conflict between the government and ethnic insurgents, Myanmar police and United Nations officials are traveling through the countryside to ask farmers what assistance they need. [31 photos]

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Policemen and villagers use sticks and grass cutters to destroy a poppy field above the village of Tar-Pu, in the mountains of Shan State, on January 27, 2012. Myanmar has dramatically escalated its poppy eradication efforts since September 2011, threatening the livelihoods of impoverished farmers. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj)
Policemen and villagers use sticks and grass cutters to destroy a poppy field above the village of Tar-Pu, in the mountains of Shan State, on January 27, 2012. Myanmar has dramatically escalated its poppy eradication efforts since September 2011, threatening the livelihoods of impoverished farmers. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj)
A poppy field is seen before policemen and farmers destroy it above the village of Ho Hwayt, in the mountains of Shan State, Myanmar, on January 26, 2012. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj) #
Policemen patrol near the village of Kyauk Ka Char, in the mountains of Shan State, on January 27, 2012. Representatives of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and Myanmar's police visited the village only a few weeks after fighting between local ethnic groups stopped. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj) #
Buddhist monks and villagers meet representatives of the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) and Myanmar's police at the temple of the village of Kyauk Ka Char, in the mountains of Shan State, on January 26, 2012. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj) #
Villagers sit outside a house where they met UNODC and Myanmar's police representatives in the village of Tar-Pu, on January 27, 2012. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj) #
Abo, a long time opium addict, sits in a drug treatment hospital in Keng Tung in mountains of Shan State, on January 28, 2012. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj) #
Policemen and local villagers destroy a poppy field above the village of Tar-Pu, Myanmar, on January 27, 2012. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj) #
Soldiers and villagers walk home after destroying the poppy fields above the village of Ho Hwayt, Myanmar, on January 26, 2012. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj) #
An ethnic Pa-O man takes a bath after meeting with representatives of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and Myanmar's police at the village of War Taw, on January 27, 2012. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj) #
Ethnic Akha women wearing traditional clothes meet UNODC representatives and Myanmar's police at the village of Kor Miang Pin, on January 29, 2012. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj) #
Novice monks play as a policeman secures a Buddhist temple where local villagers meet UN representatives and Myanmar police in the village of Kyauk Ka Char, on January 26, 2012. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj) #
An ethnic Akha woman prepares food as villagers meet with UN representatives in the village of Kor Miang Pin, on January 29, 2012. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj) #
An ethnic Akha child wearing traditional clothes is seen as villagers meet with UN representatives at the village of Kor Miang Pin, on January 29, 2012. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj) #
In the mountains of Shan State, children gather in a school in the village of Tar-Pu, on January 27, 2012. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj) #
An ethnic Pa-O woman holds her baby as local villagers meet with UN representatives in the village of Kyauk Ka Char, on January 26, 2012. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj) #
Ethnic Pa-O villagers leave the temple after meeting with Myanmar police and UN representatives in the village of Kyauk Ka Char, on January 26, 2012. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj) #
An ethnic Pa-O woman smiles after a meeting with Myanmar and UN representatives in the village of War Taw, Myanmar, on January 27, 2012. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj) #
Novice Buddhist monks gather outside a temple where local villagers meet with UNDOC representatives in the village of Kyauk Ka Char, on January 26, 2012. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj) #
Novice Buddhist monks share a meal in a temple in the village of Kyauk Ka Char, in mountains of Shan State, on January 26, 2012. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj) #
Young monks play outside a temple where local villagers meet UN and Myanmar's police representatives in the village of Kyauk Ka Char, on January 26, 2012. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj) #
A policeman secures a temple where local villagers meet UN representatives in the village of Kyauk Ka Char, on January 26, 2012. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj) #
Villagers walk past a gunman after destroying poppy fields above the village of Ho Hwayt, in the mountains of Shan State, on January 26, 2012. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj) #
A policeman uses a grass cutter to destroy a poppy field above the village of Tar-Pu, on January 27, 2012. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj) #
Villagers rest after destroying poppy fields above the village of Ho Hwayt, Myanmar, on January 26, 2012. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj) #
Children gather in a school in the village of Tar-Pu, on January 27, 2012. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj) #
The hands of 48-year-old Moe Mohm, an ethnic Pa-O widow with six daughters, whose poppy field was destroyed, in the village of Kyauk Ka Char, on January 26, 2012. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj) #
Moe Mohm, an ethnic Pa-O widow with six daughters whose poppy field was just destroyed, stands outside her house in the village of Kyauk Ka Char, in the mountains of Shan State, on January 26, 2012. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj) #
A soldier secures the area after destroying poppy fields above the village of Ho Hwayt, on January 26, 2012. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj) #
Ethnic Akha women wearing traditional clothes meet with UN representatives in the village of Kor Miang Pin, Myanmar, on January 29, 2012. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj) #
Ethnic Akha women, gathered to meet with UN representatives in the village of Kor Miang Pin, on January 29, 2012. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj) #
Poppy plants lie on the ground after policemen destroyed a field above the village of Tar-Pu, on January 27, 2012. The Myanmar government is now sending appeals to foreign donors for half a billion dollars to finance a program it says will wean 256,000 households off poppy-growing over the next three years. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj) #

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