Burma: new Shan state opium eradication plan

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) announced a new peace initiative in Burma's eastern Shan state June 28, aimed at facilitating poppy eradication in the world's second largest opium producer. The government has pledged to cooperate with the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), whose Shan State Army (SSA) fought for regional autonomy from 1964 until a 2011 ceasefire. Both parties and the UNODC agreed to help destitute farmers with alternative development programs. The anticipated multi-million dollar four-year plan seeks to improve the state's infrastructure, health and education. "There are increasing rates of poverty and food insecurity," said UNODC country coordinator Jason Eligh. "Opium farmers are not bad people, they are just poor and hungry."

But the ceasefire between the government and SSA remains fragile, and skirmishes continue. SSPP/SSA officials said June 28 that Burmese soldiers accidentally shot at their own troops while they were surrounding an SSA camp at Wan Pa Swan village. The government troops reportedly fired rocket launchers at the village's Buddhist temple and pagoda, causing much damage.

Although the world's second producer after Afghanistan for the past 20 years, Burma is said to account for 23% of global opium supply. (Tai Freedom, June 29; IRIN, June 28)