Golden Triangle Myanmar Poppy and Opium

This is a remote area at bordering Thailand and Laos in the north east of the country. Until a couple of years ago most opium produced in the world was produced via poppy cultivation and opium flower there, now most is produced in Afghanistan. The golden triangle is a very mountainous piece of land difficult to access not even by a regular tour.

Tachilek is the main city of the area where opium poppies are raised. Since a couple of years people moved a bit to cash crops and synthetic drugs which are smuggled into Thailand. Almost every month a shipment of  pill is seized on the way to Bangkok, usually the police find 2-3 million of this pills per shipment, this drugs are sold locally and exported worldwide

A remote area covering northern parts of Shan State and north east of Kachin State plus smaller, adjacent areas conveys mystery and intrigue. This is a thickly forested and mountainous region beyond government control.

In resent years the drug production moved more to synthetic drugs and millions of pills are carried to Thailand every week where, now the drug production is mainly under the control of Chinese drug lords who have even their own army

View Larger Map

The golden triangle Myanmar

has been a haven for various groups since the end of World war 2 including: the Kuomintang or KMT, Nationalist Chinese troops who escaped to the south after their defeat by the Chinese communists; Shanand Kachin insurgents and the Communist Party of Burma, CPB, who established a base among the Wa people at the Chinese border.

The town of Tachilek at the map to the right is about 100km south of the golden triangle center.

These groups financed their needs by raising poppies and opium production and trafficking it into Thailand.

The fear of spreading communism even spurred American and French involvement in the region’s nefarious and lucrative business, in order to pay local mercenaries fighting in Southeast Asia. Local hill tribes including the Wa, Kokang, Lahu, Lisu, Lu and Akha have also been drawn into the trade. Drugs are mainly shipped to the south and Malaysia. They have one major drug bust in the northern Thailand region.

 Golden Triangle Poppy and Opium
opium poppy milky juice
Opium poppy ncisions are made in the walls of the green seed pods, and the milky exudation is visible, collected and

Raising opium poppies

and producing opium, armed ethnic insurgents use the money to fighting the government and were supported by the US government, independent opium warlords with private armies held sway over much of the area. Law Hsin Han and Kung Sa, for example, have been notorious for posed difficulties to successive regimes and western countries in which their illicit drugs are sold, read more.

After operating for some two decades, Law Hsin Han was arrested in Thailand, extradited to Myanmar and sentenced to death. His sentence was commuted in 1980 and subsequently he took up residence in Taunggyi.

Kung Sa backed by his own Muang Tai Army of some 20,000 fully armed troops, carried on when Law Hsin Han was arrested. His army even had the temerity to make occasional forays into government controlled territory.

Golden Triangle Myanmar Poppy and Opium Synthetic Drug Production

Golden triangle Myanmar Poppy and Opium Synthetic Drug Production, Kuomintang.

A latex containing several important alkaloids is obtained
from immature opium poppy seed capsules one to three
weeks after flowering opium poppies at Laos, Myanmar and Thailand,

Opium poppy raising

is actively prevented to get this problem under control. Including a one million dollar reward for Khun Sa’s capture put up by the United States – Khun Sa has already died some time ago in his bed in Yangon.

In 1996, the government was able to persuade Khun Sa to give-up his army of more than 14,000 men and almost 9,000 heavy and small arms. He was once variously known in the international press as Prince of Death, Scourge of Mankind and Drug Kingpin, was on good terms with the government and was even accorded the honorific prefix U or Uncle.

The government has refused to extradite him to the U.S. on grounds that there is no extradition treaty between the countries.

For hundreds of years the main commodities traded here were tea, jade and teak. Drugs were introduced by the English colonists they encouraged poppy cultivation in order to produce opium for the Chinese market, the profits of which enriched the British East India Company and the British crown.

The U.S. financed the KMT or Kuomintang to pressure the Chinese communists under Mao. After Nixon and Kissinger established stronger relations the U.S. withdrew support from the KMT who then turned to raising poppies to finance their activities.

Some argue that the United States Government could have put a stop to poppy cultivation years ago. In 1991, Khun Sa welcomed a crop substitution plan proposed by the United Nations.

Earlier, in 1989, Khun Sa

had indicated to President Bush that he would cease planting poppies and in 1975 Law Hsin Han offered to sell the complete opium crop to the United States in exchange for another cash crop.

All suggestions to stop the stuff and get something in return have been arrogantly rejected by the United States who blame Myanmar for not solving the problem there, Khun Sa ” died in October 2007 peacefully in his house in Yangon.

The United States government does not seem to understand the demand and supply principles of the economic system they have sought to introduce all over the world ! Those who supply drugs are simply responding to the demand of drug users in the United States and Europe.

Why doesn’t the U S government focus on educating people not to use drugs instead of blaming poor Asian countries for causing the problem’ Is it because there are too many powerful groups in America who profit from the drug trade’ The drug problem is a problem on the consumer side not on the supplier side.

Opium cultivation and production


Americans living in fine homes and driving beautiful cars in “God’s own country,” are demanding that hill tribes in the golden Triangle who can hardly afford one full meal a day, give up a key source of income to solve an American problem.

When US people don’t consume drugs people elsewhere wont raise drugs because the US are the biggest market for drugs.

Currently the US government

do the same nonsense with Mexico and people there suffer because of a US problem.

The government of Myanmar enacted a Narcotic Drug Law in 1974 and the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Law in 1993 to combat drug trafficking. The Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control (CCDAC) is charged with the responsibility of enforcing the laws and of encouraging crop substitution and livestock farming. The government also provides treatment as well as conducting information and education programs. Rehabilitation, information and education have been undertaken in the golden Triangle . Myanmar is also actively co-operating with countries in the region as well as with UN agencies in drug control work in the golden Triangle. From 1990 to 1997, seized narcotics valued at over $52 million were publicly destroyed at 11 exhibitions before state, diplomatic and UN officials. During the same period 32,777 persons were jailed for drug abuse offences including 20 sentenced to death and 48 to life imprisonment.

A typical story of a golden triangle “Drug Baron”

is the story of Wei Hsueh-Kang, a ethnic Chinese of the United Wa State Army which is primarily involved in drug producing, processing and selling. Since a couple of years they moved away from opium production and opium poppy cultivation to produce synthetic drugs, amphetamine, ice etc. Synthetic drugs have a big market in Thailand, around once a month the police catch a major shipment from that area with destination Bangkok, its estimated that they only catch around 5% of the drugs, each shipment usually has around 3 million pills. They travel from the border far into the south hand over the drugs at Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai to other gangs who carry them to Bangkok and further. The other day (2013) they found a women who smuggled synthetic drugs from Laos, they just crossed the Mekong River. This is real trafficking tourism.

The irony is and it tells practically everything about the mind boggling behavior of the US administration is, that parallel to this they have been a good allay to the United Wa State Army (UWSA) for destabilizing the Myanmar government since they don’t do what Washington commands.

The US Americans put a $2 million reward on his head and hoped that in this money oriented society they might get a hit. The guy was caught in Thailand on drug trafficking charges. Some court processing was done; he was released on bail and “evaporated”.

As an example, in 2008-2009 poppy harvesting in an area around 15 villages in Shan State was done at 617 hectares, at 2010-2011 the area was expanded to 1,109 hectares. The army and politicians are heavily involved into production and transport. In Myanmar’s Shan State are 55 townships. At almost all of them is some growing and refining of opium going on, actually for the local people poppies are a simple cash crop they have no local problems with it, it’s a means of agriculture production if some people maybe thousands of kilometers away don’t like this, its their problem, they should educated their people not to consume drugs after production will be stopped automatically, but blaming some poor Asian people who have hardly enough to eat is the most easy way out instead of solving the problem. The only 11 township which are somehow poppy free are along the Chinese border and Chinese authorities put a lot of pressure on the locals not to grow them.
Refineries are, among other, at Punako, opposite Thailand’s Chiang Rai.

Opium farmers of the golden triangle

To grow poppies it needs reasonable soil, no watering needed, there is enough mist with sufficient moisture in it, in the area are also tea plantations. They grow the poppies almost everywhere in the hills of north eastern Shan state, even just cross the Thai border. Why do the local farmers raise them? If they grow vegetables, how to get them to market, there are no roads and no market, when they grow poppies some uniformed people will come and buy the latex. It looks as with some help on infrastructure building and crop substitution a lot could be done to make the farmer not raising poppies, but the relevant authorities only talk and blame the other, nobody really ever helps the locals, for them it’s a cash crop which can be substituted.

Tachilek – the Capital.

is located in the eastern sector of Thanlwin Shan State. The Friendship Bridge across the small Mae Sai stream links

the city with the northern Thai border town. The area is currently being developed for tourism and cross-border trade.

A sightseeing tour could be made by flying direct from or drive 450 kilometers to the east to Kentung, then 163 kilometers south. There is a ferry landing site at Wanpon port, Mekong River.