Shan-Kayah border increases production
Poppy cultivation along the border areas between Burma's Shan and Kayah states had sharply risen during the 2005-2006 season, according to a Karenni survey team returning to the Thai-Burma border following its second visit to the said areas...
No.10 - 05/2006
12 May 2006
Shan-Kayah border increases production
Poppy cultivation along the border areas between Burma's Shan and Kayah states had sharply risen during the 2005-2006 season, according to a Karenni survey team returning to the Thai-Burma border following its second visit to the said areas:
Farmers quoted the Shan Nationalities People Liberation Organization (SNPLO), a ceasefire group active in the eastern part of the areas, saying this latest season was to be their last fling with the making of opium, from which heroin is derived, says a draft report by Karenni Anti-Drug Action Committee (KADAC), that has recently completed a four and a half month tour to the Shan-Kayah border areas. "As a result, we saw more poppy fields this year than we did last year," Dominique, a KADAC team member, told S.H.A.N.
His claim of increased input by the local poppy farmers has been supported by other independent sources, although they are unable to confirm the following figures presented by the group:
2003-2004 2,500 acres
2004-2005 2,300 acres *(due to restrictions in some areas)
2005-2006 3,500 acres
There are 5 townships on the Shan-Kayah border:
Kayah State (Karenni State)
These areas are under the sway of the SNPLO in the east and its rival PaO National Organization (PNO), another ceasefire group, in the west as none of the Karenni-based groups are active there, according to KADAC.
Farmers say they pay taxes to "all those who ask for them":
|SNPLO||30 Kyat (0.5 kg) of opium per household|
|PNO||100,000 kyat ($100) per household|
|Township Council (Hsihseng)||30,000 kyat ($30) per household|
|Local Military units (Light Infantry Battalions 423 and 424 in Hsihseng)||60,000 kyat ($60) per acre|
*The exchange rate was $1 = 1,000 kyat before April. Tax rates for other townships are not available - Editor.
Opium prices have also steadily increased:
2003-2004 250,000 Kyat ($250) per viss (*1.6 kg)
2004-2005 300,000 Kyat - 350,000 Kyat ($300-350) per viss
2005-2006 400,000 - 450,000 Kyat ($400-450) per viss
While some of farmers sold their produce at Nawnghtao in Hsihseng township, where the SNPLO is headquartered, most of them say "the buyers from Taunggyi came to us". All of them represented the ethnic Chinese Laobans (financiers) from Taunggyi. "Each of them has to buy tokens from the ceasefire groups, ranging from 50,000 Kyat tokens to 1.5 million Kyat tokens, depending on how much they want to buy from us," a farmer told KADAC.
Each household does 1-5 acres and acquires 2-3 viss ($3-5 kg) per acre. Despite the seemingly high returns, farmers say it is just enough to feed them the whole year. A 56-year old woman from Loikaw township told KADAC:
"The soil is not fit for paddy. Even if we grow it, the yield is not sufficient to get us through the year, as we also have to pay tax and feed the soldiers. School expenses for our children are also high. Besides, we are also required to contribute free labor (Lok-ar-pay) to the military. To top all these, our village has already been moved out (by the Burma Army) three times now. What do you expect us to live on?"
Farmers say even Burmese soldiers and their families were growing poppies this season, due to hardships faced by the rank and file. "Only officers enjoy being in the Army," a local source told S.H.A.N.
KADAC, formed by the Karenni (Kayah) activists, visited the area for the first time between April-July last year. (Opium prices increase 100 fold in Kayah, 22 August 2005)
Kayah or Karenni, the smallest state in Burma (4,500 square miles), borders with Thailand's Maehongson in the east, Shan State in the north and Karen State in the west and south.