Myanmar's War on Opium

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.

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