Poppy season returns in force
Poppy season returns in force
Hilltribe farmers along the border
told S.H.A.N. on Thursday (19 September) they were expecting
fitting returns from their labor by the end of October, coinciding
with Foreign Minister Win Aung's address to the UN General Assembly
that promised eradication of illegal drugs through the project
code-named New Destiny that was launched in May.
"No Burmese official told us anything about it," said a Lisu villager, who has a home inside Thailand in Wianghaeng, a district of Chiangmai. "What we have heard from them again and again is that we set up our fields away from the motor roads where wayfarers can make out what we're growing."
As a result, hilly areas of the township of Mongton, opposite Chiangmai, roughly 2,500 square miles, are filled with poppy fields. "Those along the border are under Wa control", said another tribeman, while those further inside are under the Burmese army's control."
They told S.H.A.N. they had no idea
how the farmers would be taxed this year. "Last year, they taxed us
according to the head count of the hired laborers in the employment
of pawliangs (employers)", said one, "4 kyat per head".
A hundred kyat makes 1 joy (1.6 kg). Thousands of villagers from across the Salween who came to find work, were engaged by Kokang, Wa, Lisu and even Shan "bosses" to work in their fields.
Sources, however, were not wholly sure about the situation in the neighboring township of Monghsat in the east, where its borders meet Chiangmai and Chiangrai. The southern sector of the township, including Mongyawn, is under Wa jurisdiction. Drug-lord Wei Hsuehkang has reportedly prohibited production of opium in his domain and has moved most of the refineries from the area. "A few still remains there," said S.H.A.N.'s insider source. "For example, the one near Base 46, between Mongyawn and Monghsat, that was constructed inside a man-made cave, was still in operation when I was in Monghsat over a month ago."
The northern sector of the township,
under Burmese army control, meanwhile, boasted a vast expanse of
poppy fields. "But it's far from the border where complaints from
the Thai government is rarely heard or felt," he said.
[Shan rebel sources maintained that the Wa were also forcing the inhabitants in Mongkok, Mongloong and Hpaktu Moeng in the eastern sector of Monghsat Township under their control to cultivate poppies. "Whether or not you produce opium, you'll be taxed anyway," one Wa officer was quoted as saying to the village elders. However, this information cannot be confirmed independently.]
Shans slipping into Thailand from the cis-Salween townships of Laikha, Mongkerng, Mongnawng, Kunhing, Mongpan and Kengtawng also confirmed reports of the existence of poppy fields.
"In fact, we were exhorted by Kengtawng Area Commander (rank unknown) Khin Maung Myint on 9 September that we could grow as much as we like," said Wizingda (real name withheld by request). "That's why I've come to Thailand to persuade my relatives who are working here to go back. We could make at least a million kyat (around 38,000 baht at present rate) between us."
Rangoon and UNDCP have declared reduction of drug output through their concerted efforts. But poppy farmers claim that it is the weather, and not the Burmese or the UN, that constitutes the principal reason for the decline. "We hope the gods are easy on us this year," prays the Lisu from Wianghaeng.
"It is the same across Maehongson", said a source who recently returned from a trip to the border. "The seeds were supplied by the Kokang bosses."