‘If there is no peace, poppy flowers will bloom,’ an SNLD MP said in Parliament.
Sai Tun Aye, a Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) parliamentarian from Mong Hsu Township, said in the Lower House that short-term responses to the problem of opium cultivation will not bring the desired results.
“It’s impossible to succeed with short-term solution to reduce poppy plantations in Burma. Therefore, we need to draft a comprehensive grand strategy and a long-term plan for it,” he said.
Others spoke on the need for the issue of opium poppies to be addressed.
National League for Democracy (NLD) MP Daw Khin Hnin Thit, from Pangtaung township in Bago Region, proposed on May 17 that the government invite private businessmen to invest in poppy substitution crops in areas where opium is cultivated in Burma.
Dr. Khin Sithu, an NLD MP from Loikaw Township in Karenni State, said that farmers have reported many issues that prevent them from halting opium cultivation.
“Poppy farmers want to grow other crops but there is no market for substitution crops in practice. The commodity price is unstable. So poppy farmers don’t have enough strength to do it,” she said.
Sai Tun Aye emphasized that the destruction of poppy plantations would not be an effective option, and advised the legislature and government to look toward Thailand for a way forward. He highlighted the Thai development policy, which included ethnic nationalities, and the development of education, healthcare, and transportation and energy infrastructure alongside small-scale economic enterprises.
Over a period of 30 years, Thailand was able to reduce poppy plantations, he said.
“One of the reasons for growing poppy plantations is the very long civil war in our country,” Sai Tun Aye said. “In order to reduce poppy plantations, the government must have a commitment and true political will to restore genuine peace in the country.”
“If there is no peace, poppy flowers will bloom,” he added.
Respective authorities must try to understand the challenges facing poppy farmers, and then draft practical drug policies, the MP recommended.