The United Nations drug agency is confident illegal opium production in Thailand can be reduced despite a slight increase in cultivation last year. But the agency warns high levels of poverty, a rapid rise in the price of raw opium and the absence of effective law enforcement mean there is always a high risk of a return to widespread opium poppy cultivation in Southeast Asia, which represents 15 per cent of global illicit cultivation.
Cultivation in Laos increased from 1,500 hectares to 1,600 hectares. In Burma it rose from 27,000 hectares to 28,500 hectares over the same period. Overall cultivation increased 3.3 per cent in the three countries.
UNODC representative Gary Lewis said the increase in Thailand was minimal compared to other areas.
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New York Times