The Golden Triangle
Myanmar (Burma), Laos, and Thailand (Figure 12.1) are collectively one of the world's two traditional sources of opium. Most of Myanmar's opiumproducing region has for decades been plagued by warfare between government forces and various ethnic groups and rival drug warlords. The Rangoon government has permitted the drugs trade to continue provided it takes a substantial cut of the profits. Myanmar is the most important of the three Golden Triangle countries. In 1996 Myanmar's opium harvest from 163,100 hectares (403,040 acres) gave a yield of 2,560 tonnes (2,520 tons), and represented a 9 percent increase over the crop for 1995. Through the 1990s Thailand developed one of the most successful crop eradication programs, inspired and largely financed by the United States, although Bangkok is both a drug-transit and leading money-laundering center. Thus, in 1996 it had 2,170 hectares (5,360 acres) producing opium to give a potential yield of 30 tonnes (29.5 tons), while by 1999 only 835 hectares (2,060 acres) produced opium to give a potential yield of six tonnes (5.9 tons). Laos is the world's third-largest producer of heroin after Afghanistan and Myanmar.