Afghan Opium Output Seen Eclipsing Golden Triangle


By Sasithorn Simaporn

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Afghanistan will take back its crown this year from the notorious Golden Triangle in Southeast Asia as the world's top producer of opium, the raw material used to make heroin, a Thai anti-narcotics official said on Wednesday. Afghanistan lost its top spot in recent years as a result of strict Islamic rule by the Taliban regime and the U. S. led war which toppled the movement. Chartchai Suthiklom, deputy secretary-general of the Office of the Narcotics Control Board, said combined opium production in Myanmar, Laos and Thailand -- which make up the Golden Triangle -- is estimated at a total of 926 tons this year, compared with well over 2,000 tons in Afghanistan.

"When there was almost no supply from Afghanistan, drugs dealers came to the Golden Triangle as a substitute and the supply rose, but there is abundant supply in Afghanistan now," Chartchai told Reuters. Opium production in Afghanistan fell dramatically, to about 74 tons in 2001 from about 3,656 tons in 2000, an annual report by the State Department released in March shows. The United Nations estimates Afghan production this year will reach 2,952 tons.

Chartchai said relative stability, lax laws and drought in war-torn Afghanistan would help raise its opium and heroin production as farmers struggled to make a living. Chartchai said recent satellite images showed opium growing areas had been contained in China and the Golden Triangle. He said opium production in Myanmar, the world's top opium producer in 2001, had constantly declined in past years, estimated at 700 to 800 tons this year from 900 tons last year and 3,000 tons almost ten years ago. Ten tons of opium is enough to produce one ton of heroin,

Chartchai said. The U. N.'s anti-drugs agency said on Tuesday opium cultivation in Myanmar had fallen an estimated 25 percent this year, but the battle against the drug trade in the military-ruled nation was far from over. In Laos, Chartchai said opium production was estimated to have declined to 120 tons this year from some 200 tons a year ago thanks to intensifying suppression. Thailand is seen producing about six tons of opium this year.

Copyright © 2002 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.



( categories: )