Burma's War on Opium

Collection with 29 media items created by vincenzo floramo

24 Apr 2014 04:00

Burma’s war-torn Shan State is a well-known hotspot for the cultivation of opium poppies, the plant from which morphine and heroin are synthesized. In the state’s remote mountains near the Chinese border, the T’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) rebel militia has been waging a hidden war against opium cultivation.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC), the cultivation of opium in Burma increased by 26% in 2013, marking the highest rise since the UNODC and the Myanmar government started their assessments in 2002. One of the main factors leading to an increase in poppy cultivation is the fact that farmers have few other ways to make a living.

Burma is the second largest opium-producing country in the world after Afghanistan; and Shan State remains the center of the country's opium activities, accounting for 92 per cent of the country’s total cultivation.

The north of the state is the home of the Palaung ethnic minority, which has been cultivating and harvesting the "sleepy plant" for years.

While very profitable for producers, the production and consumption of opium has a high social cost in Burma’s impoverished north. In some villages up to 80% of men are addicts.

To fight the economic and social damages caused by opium, the armed organisation of the Palaung minority, the TNLA declared a war on the plant in 2012. TNLA introduced prohibition laws in the Palaung community areas under their control. Cultivating, costuming and selling drugs is now strictly prohibited.

The TNLA claims to have 1,500 soldiers, who this year were ordered to destroy poppy fields during the harvest season. The commanders have accused the Burmese Chinese minority of controlling the poppy fields and working in collusion with local militias and the Burmese army.

TNLA’s goal is to replace the poppy fields with other crops like corn and tea. But changes have to be implemented gradually opium represents a major source of income for local peasants.

Opium Opium Farming Burma Myanmar Drugs Drug War

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Opium in Burma 1
By vincenzo floramo
12 Mar 2014

A TNLA (Ta'ang National Liberation Army) soldier during the early morning cleaning of the 101 battalion base camp. They are burning the dry leaves that fell from the trees during the night.

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Opium in Burma 10
By vincenzo floramo
12 Mar 2014

TNLA soldiers of the 112 battalion marching.
TNLA has signed a draft agreement with other ethnic armed groups participating in a nationwide ceasefire.

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Opium in Burma 11
By vincenzo floramo
10 Mar 2014

Villager of Palaung area controlled by the TNLA transport wood from the forest to be sold in a bigger town nearby.

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Opium in Burma 12
By vincenzo floramo
09 Mar 2014

The milky fluid seeping from cuts in the unripe poppy is scraped off and air-dried to produce opium by a local Chinese.

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Opium in Burma 13
By vincenzo floramo
12 Mar 2014

TNLA officers distributing munitions, north Shan state.

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Opium in Burma 14
By vincenzo floramo
12 Mar 2014

A TNLA commander prepares the distribution of new AK47 assault rifle at 101 battalion's base camp.

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Opium in Burma 15
By vincenzo floramo
12 Mar 2014

TNLA soldiers rising the flag during a parade.

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Opium in Burma 16
By vincenzo floramo
12 Mar 2014

TNLA soldiers relax while watching a movie. TNLA's strategy is based on mobility, with no permanent headquarters and small groups of soldiers constantly on the move.

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Opium in Burma 16
By vincenzo floramo
10 Mar 2014

TNLA soldiers relax outside the house of a local Palaung villager in Shan state.

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Opium in Burma 17
By vincenzo floramo
10 Mar 2014

TNLA War officer Tar Khoure Nyan, the third higher rank in the army, talks with a local villager in a Palaung house, north Shan state.

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Opium in Burma 17
By vincenzo floramo
11 Mar 2014

TNLA soldiers in position for the ground parade.

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Opium in Burma 18
By vincenzo floramo
12 Mar 2014

TNLA soldier from the 101 battalion resting.

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Opium in Burma 19
By vincenzo floramo
09 Mar 2014

TNLA soldiers play foot volley in a Plaung village in the north Shan State.

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Opium in Burma 2
By vincenzo floramo
12 Mar 2014

Soldiers from TNLA (Ta'ang National Liberation Army), the armed wing of the Palaung minority, counting new weapons at the 101 battalion army camp.

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Opium in Burma 20
By vincenzo floramo
09 Mar 2014

TNLA officer doing a security check whit his soldiers patrolling the area around a Palaung village.

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Opium in Burma 21
By vincenzo floramo
09 Mar 2014

Duty commander in chief Tar Khu Lan and the War officer Tar Khoure Nyan, taking a bath in a hot spring pool in a Palaung village, north Shan State.

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Opium in Burma 22
By vincenzo floramo
09 Mar 2014

TNLA War officer Tar Khoure Nyan. This position is the third higher rank in the army.

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Opium in Burma 23
By vincenzo floramo
11 Mar 2014

Soldiers from the TNLA destroy an opium field in the ethnic Palaung area.
Opium and heroin are ideal trade products. They are in great demand, are very profitable to produce, and the products take little space.

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Opium in Burma 24
By vincenzo floramo
11 Mar 2014

A TNLA soldier pose while a fellow soldier takes a picture of him while destroying a poppy filed in the Palaung area.

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Opium in Burma 25
By vincenzo floramo
11 Mar 2014

TNLA soldiers walking out of the forest near their battalion base after destroying a poppy field. The leaves, which are innocuous, where collected to be used in a soup.

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Opium in Burma 26
By vincenzo floramo
09 Mar 2014

View of a Palaung village in the north Shan state under TNLA control.

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Opium in Burma 27
By vincenzo floramo
12 Mar 2014

100 TNLA soldiers on their way for a two days walk.

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Opium in Burma 3
By vincenzo floramo
11 Mar 2014

TNLA soldiers sleeping at night in front of the fire at 101 battalion base camp.

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Opium in Burma 4
By vincenzo floramo
12 Mar 2014

Two young Palaung villagers outside a rough wooden cell at 101 battalion camp. They have been caught smoking methanfetamine by TNLA and condemned to two weeks in jail.

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Opium in Burma 5
By vincenzo floramo
12 Mar 2014

TNLA Duty commander in chief Tar Khu Lan gives a speech to encourage his soldiers.

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Opium in Burma 6
By vincenzo floramo
13 Mar 2014

When the TNLA sizes a big quantity of opium from local traffickers, they burn it in public to make an example.

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Opium in Burma 7
By vincenzo floramo
11 Mar 2014

An officer with the Tang National Liberation Army (TNLA) holds poppy flowers. Fifteen soldiers under his command destroyed a field of poppy plants in 40 minutes.

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Opium in Burma 8
By vincenzo floramo
11 Mar 2014

Aikun, a 29-year-old Palaung man, smokes an opium pipe in his bamboo hut. By smoking, he risks imprisonment by the TNLA.

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Opium in Burma 9
By vincenzo floramo
13 Mar 2014

A TNLA officer throwing gasoline on 1.5 kg opium sized to local smugglers.