The Danger of Myanmar’s Opium Trade

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary

by Daniel Nardini

Without question, most of the world’s opium comes from Afghanistan. This comes as no surprise—the Taliban use the profits from the opium trade to finance their operations, and opium is sadly the main cash crop for too many Afghan farmers. Now Myanmar is coming into the opium trade. Even with western investments coming into that country, the average Burmese farmer has little to no money. So, following a centuries old tradition, many Burmese farmers are again turning towards growing opium. While opium production in Myanmar is still small scale compared to Afghanistan, it is growing. In fact, opium production has more than tripled in Myanmar since 2006. Either there is little that the Myanmar authorities can do about the opium trade, or they are turning a blind eye to the activity.

The real problem is that the opium is grown is the eastern part of the country—an area the Myanmar government has no real control over. Even though the amount of opium coming from Myanmar is still small scale, Myanmar opium is considered “better quality” compared to Afghan opium. At this point, Myanmar opium is usually exported to China. However, this could be changing as the overlords of the Myanmar opium trade are looking for more “markets” for their opium. And the United States is definitely in their sights. As if opium, processed into heroin, is not bad enough, but now a “higher grade” opium may be on the table for all those who might get hooked on this poison. This is bad for law enforcement as well as possibly U.S.-Myanmar diplomatic relations. Legalizing opium and opium products is not a good option since opium is too addictive, and would cause irreparable damage to an individual’s health.

The real alternative is to help the Myanmar government be able to take control of a part of their own country largely out of control. More than that, help the Myanmar government buy up the opium for products in America that can be used in everyday medicine that could save a person’s life (note: opium is used to make medicines such as codeine which is a pain killer). The important thing is to stop the Myanmar opium trade from reaching America’s shore.

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