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Burma is expected to grow as a global source of heroin and methamphetamines (ATS) in the years ahead amid efforts to stem the flow of drugs from Afghanistan, a US narcotics official said Thursday.
Burma, already the world’s second biggest opium producer, looks likely to become increasingly attractive to drugs smugglers, said William Brownfield, assistant secretary of the US Bureau of International Narcotics.
He said international efforts to stop drugs from Afghanistan, currently the biggest supplier of heroin and opium, will “eventually succeed”.
“It is inevitable that the trafficking organisations will seek out other countries from which to produce and market their products. The most logical country that will be next on their checklist is… Burma,” he added.
He said the army-dominated nation “is likely to be a greater producer and a greater exporter of the illicit drugs in the years ahead”.
Brownfield was speaking in neighbouring Thailand about Bangkok’s efforts to combat drug trafficking across its border with Burma.
“It’s therefore extremely likely that Thailand… will have to address the reality of increasing production and transit of heroin, opium and crystal methamphetamines and other artificial drugs in the years ahead,” he said.
He said drug traffickers were “far more sophisticated” than in the past.
“They are often better equipped, better prepared, better armed than are the law enforcement organisations that take them on,” he added.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has expressed strong concern about a drug surge in Burma, which has re-emerged as a major producer of heroin and amphetamine-style synthetic drugs.
In June it said a “blight” on opium crops in Afghanistan, which accounts for about two-thirds of the global area under poppy cultivation, meant that world production declined by 38% to an estimated 4,860 tons.
Cultivation in Burma rose by 20% in 2010 and with Afghanistan’s decline, its share of global opium production has risen from five percent in 2007 to 12% last year, the UN agency said.
It added that Burma was a prime source of amphetamine pills seizures in Southeast Asia — with the amount caught in raids rising by a third in 2009, to 15.8 tons.
Drug production is particularly prevalent in Burma’s border areas, where conflict between armed ethnic groups and the military has intensified since the country’s controversial elections in November 2010.
In June 2010, UNODC representative Gary Lewis said both poppy cultivation and the huge hauls of methamphetamine were concentrated in Burma’s northeastern Shan State and represented “a nexus of money, weapons and drugs”.