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Myanmar declares war on opium

Monday, February 20, 2012 - 01:47

Feb. 20 - Myanmar authorities eradicate poppy fields at a swift pace, but find it difficult to provide alternatives for the farmers. Sophia Soo reports.

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Myanmar has declared a war on opium. In a remote valley in Shan State, police armed with weed-whackers move through fields of poppies. They leave behind them a carpet of stems. These fields are the livelihood for many of the residents in the villages. Local farmers are distraught at the sight of their destroyed fields. (SOUNDBITE) (Burmese) 48-YEAR-OLD WIDOW WITH SIX DAUGHTERS, MOE MOHM, SAYING: "I thought nothing. I just wanted to cry. I can't do anything about this (poppy field eradication). There's no food to eat. The money I borrowed I have already spent on fertilizers. I have no more money to pay back, no more money for food." Myanmar has appealed to foreign donors for half a billion dollars to finance a program to wean the thousands of households off poppy-growing. But it's not easy. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said new crops can't be planted until the rains come in June or July. (SOUNDBITE) (English) UNITED NATIONS OFFICE ON DRUGS AND CRIME (UNODC) IN MYANMAR COUNTRY MANAGER, JASON ELIGH SAYING: "We've got a very narrow window. We've got a period now of about six months until they can plant again. If aid is not arriving, if they don't get the assistance they need in that period, then there is a very real chance that they'll go back to poppy." The UN estimates about 256,000 households are involved in opium poppy cultivation. It also said Myanmar produced an estimated 610 tonnes last year. Making it the world's second biggest opium supplier after Afghanistan. Sophia Soo, Reuters.

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Myanmar declares war on opium

Monday, February 20, 2012 - 01:47

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