UN: Myanmar Surpasses Afghanistan as World’s Biggest Opium Producer

    UN: Myanmar Surpasses Afghanistan as World’s Biggest Opium Producer
    Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images News [via Getty Images]

    The Facts

    • According to a recent UN assessment, Myanmar has surpassed Afghanistan to become the world's largest producer of opium since the ruling Taliban outlawed the growth of poppies in the country.

    • Political, social, and economic instability in the Southeast Asian country after the coup in 2021 has driven many in Myanmar to poppy farming, thanks to a 95% decline in opium cultivation in Afghanistan following the Taliban's 2022 drug ban, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said on Tuesday.

    The Spin

    Narrative A

    The resurgence of opium production in Myanmar is a direct response to the 2021 coup, with organized crime groups taking advantage of the political instability in the country. Myanmar's coup and subsequent civil war plunged the country into a severe economic crisis and large portions of the country were thrown into abject poverty. A lack of law and order, as well as a lack of economic opportunities, has allowed opium production to grow unchecked in the country.

    Narrative B

    While the instability in Myanmar has undoubtedly contributed to this surge, it's not the only factor at play: When the Taliban outlawed the trade of heroin and hashish in 2022, Myanmar rushed to fill the gap in the market. Though opium production experienced a dramatic drop in the Golden Triangle in 2014 and 2015, the economic situation not only in Myanmar but throughout the region has changed dramatically over the past seven years. This is a regional issue that requires regional collaboration to be fixed.

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