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UN event in Thailand focuses on strategies to curb opium cultivation

The six-day meeting offers participating experts an opportunity to compare best practices and explore whether the legal economy can successfully challenge and replace illegal economies, according to UNODC. The event, which is taking place in the town of Chian Rai, was organized by Antonio Maria Costa, the head of the UNODC, and Phongthep Thepkanjana, the Thai Minister of Justice.Thailand, which has a high level of success rate in alternative development, is the first country in the world to succeed in the sustainable elimination of opium cultivation, according to the UNODC. “The heart of the Golden Triangle sends an important message out to the rest of the world that alternative development is the only way ahead to combat illicit activities from inside, working on farmers’ well-being rather than on their fears, in a sustainable way,” said Mr. Costa in a statement.”Unless alternative development initiatives are launched, these farmers risk hunger and then humanitarian disaster. Now is the moment for nations and counter-drug agencies around the world to join together in the kind of global partnerships we need to bring alternative development projects to regions and people still held hostage by narco-economies,” he added.Thailand’s victory of opium cultivation was the result of 30 years of developing projects in the nation’s highlands, when UNODC and the international community worked hand in hand with the Thai Government to offer poor ethnic minority villagers and farmers economic alternatives to drug crops, UNODC said.The country has been opium-free since 1993. In less than a decade, both Laos and Myanmar (the two other members of the so-called Golden Triangle) have reduced opium production by 74 percent.The UN estimates that about 4 million people worldwide depend on income derived from the cultivation of illicit drug crops, including coca and opium. In most cases, these growers live below the poverty level, with 50 percent of their income earned from drug-crops cultivation. read more