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Myanmar's war on opium

Damir Sagolj / Reuters

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, Myanmar, Jan. 27, 2012. Myanmar has dramatically escalated its poppy eradication efforts since September 2011, threatening the livelihoods of impoverished farmers who depend upon opium as a cash crop to buy food.

Damir Sagolj / Reuters

Soldiers and villagers walk home after destroying the poppy fields above the village of Ho Hwayt, in the mountains of Shan State, Myanmar, Jan. 26, 2012.

Damir Sagolj / Reuters

Children at a school in the village of Tar-Pu, in the mountains of Shan State, Myanmar, Jan. 27, 2012.

 

Damir Sagolj / Reuters

An ethnic Pa-O man takes a bath after meeting with representatives of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and Myanmar's police at the village of War Taw, in the mountains of Shan State, Jan. 27, 2012.

Reuters reports: Since taking power a year ago, the nominally civilian government of President Thein Sein has launched a series of political and economic reforms. It has also dramatically accelerated a campaign to eradicate opium poppies and shed Myanmar's pariah status as one of the world's top drug producers.

Forging a lasting peace is arguably Thein Sein's toughest challenge, and it is complicated by opium. As in Afghanistan and Colombia, the drug trade has long fueled conflict in Myanmar, providing cash to buy weapons and a lucrative product to fight over.

Chopping down opium poppies is the easy part. Helping former poppy-growing families develop alternative crops and livelihoods is complicated and costly. Full story.