Poppies blossom in the north
Poppies blossom in the north - again
Unlike last year, when suppression was at its height, poppy fields have begun to appear in places where there were only desolate hills, said sources returning from northern Shan State.
The sources who were on vacation since the end of the Buddhist lent, said except for parts of Kutkhai and Hsipaw townships, more poppy fields were observed in townships like Lashio, Hsenwi, Muse and Tangyan.
In Tangyan, local authorities appeared to be oblivious to the poppy fields in locations where, during the previous year, they had dispatched armed teams to destroy.
"This year's harvest is really good, especially in Khun Sa's home ground, Loimaw, Nawngliang, Mongtawm, Nam Musay, Wan Parng and Mongma," said a native from the area. "And people leaving for their fields looked exuberant as if they were going to a festival."
Mongzi and Monghawm in Kutkhai township, once known as major opium producers in the area, and Mongkhurh, Mongtoong, Mongla and Marnnawng in Hsipaw township, however, are exceptions.
"Cowed by last year's suppression, some farmers in Mongzi and Monghawm have moved elsewhere," a local source told the visitors. Kutkhai was one of the townships that had undergone harsh reprisals, such as extrajudicial killings, as reported in Show Business: Rangoon's War on Drugs in Shan State, released by S.H.A.N. on 10 December.
The vacationers also saw numerous poppy fields in the Wa townships of Marnhparng and Pangyang, on the eastern side of the Salween, opposite Tangyan and its neighboring township in the south, Monghsu.
"Spurred on by the 2005 zero-production deadline declared by Panghsang, even Wa officers and their families are in a frenzy to make the most of the remaining two poppy seasons," a relative told the visitors. "The officers' involvement naturally encourages us ordinary people to work harder."
In southern Shan State, especially in Monghsu, Mongkerng, Laikha, Panglong, Kunhing, Loilem, Hopong and Hsihseng, where the travelers had visited, the production, by all accounts, is up. One of the officers of Light Infantry Battalion 514, based in Mongkerng, explained: "Unlike the north, many parts of the south are still black areas (areas where the resistance is active). And that gives us a very strong justification for allowing the people to engage in the poppy cultivation. In the north, they don't have that kind of excuse."
The Shan State Army "South" of Yawdserk, in the meanwhile, insists that it is all for peace talks but "the problem is they keep demanding that we surrender. That is against our principle. We will only surrender to an elected government."
In Panglong, the demand for fertilizers for use in the poppy fields was such some traders in town were making profits selling chicken manure brought from Shwenyaung, according to a recent arrival.
The UN Office for Drugs and Crime reported in June that opium cultivation was cut by half in northern Shan State but increased by 21% in the Wa region.