Golden Triangle’s drug entering Arunachal 

A man harvests opium in opium field outside Loikaw, Kayah state, Myanmar- 2023

Beyond the Horizon

By Pradeep Kumar

Drugs, suspected to be heroin, are seized and many peddlers, including females, are arrested very often than not even from Capital Complex, whose number has increased since Mihin Gambo took over as Naharlagun and Nirjuli SP 17.07.23.

The moot question is where from such narcotic substances are coming to Arunachal Pradesh. This state has a dubious drug-related distinction as YD Thongchi, the second longest serving DC/DM of India for 12 years 4 months, had stirred the entire nation after seizing 99 kg of charash as Changlang DC (Apr 98-May 2001).  The charash was being brought from infamous Golden Triangle during 1998 assembly polls was Rs 1 crore/per kg in global market then.

In fact, Mihin Gambo as Changlang SP, had gone on record by arresting many peddlers and seizing large quantities of drugs. The latest being arrest of five inter-state peddlers and seized 30.64 grams suspected heroin few days ago.

Regrettably, Tirap, Changlang and Longding districts, bordering Myanmar, besides Namsai, Lohit, Dibang Valley, Upper Siang, Anjaw, and West Kameng are drug hit districts of the state.

“Namsai, Lohit, Dibang Valley, Upper Siang, Anjaw, Changlang, Tirap and West Kameng districts of are said to be among the 272 worst drug-abuse affected districts in the country and there are reports of government employees addicted to drugs in the state,” as reported by The Indian Express on 09.02.21.

The Golden Triangle is a large, mountainous region spread across approximately 200,000 sqkm in northeastern Myanmar, northwestern Thailand and northern Laos, centered on the confluence of Ruak and Mekong Rivers, has been one of the largest opium producing areas of the world since the 1950s. Most of the world’s heroin came from the Golden Triangle until  early 21st century.

Myanmar was the world’s second-largest source of opium after Afghanistan up to 2022, producing some 25% of the world’s opium, forming part of the Golden Triangle. While opium poppy cultivation in Myanmar had declined year-on-year since 2015, cultivation area increased by 33% to 9,000 acres alongside an 88% increase in yield potential to 790  tons in 2022, according to latest data of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Myanmar Opium Survey 2022.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has also warned that opium production in Myanmar may rise again if the economic crunch brought on by COVID-19 and the country’s 2021 Myanmar coup d’etat persists, with significant public health and security consequences for much of Asia.

In 2023, Myanmar became the world’s largest producer of opium after an estimated 1,080 tons of  drug was produced, according to a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report, while a crackdown by the Taliban reduced opium production by approximately 95% to 330 tons in Afghanistan for the same year.

The name “Golden Triangle” was coined by Marshall Green, a U.S. State Department official, in 1971 in a press conference on the opium trade. Today, the Thai side of the river confluence Sop Ruak has become a tourist attraction, with an Opium Museum, a Hall of Opium, and a Golden Triangle Park and no opium cultivation.

But, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Southeast Asia and the Pacific regional office’s Myanmar Opium Survey-2022 reporting increase of production area by 33% to 9,000 acres and an 88% increase in yield potential to 790 tons in 2022, according to latest data, poses serious threat to India, Arunachal Pradesh in particular.

Opium poppy was cultivated on more than 40,000 hectares in Myanmar in 2022, a 33% increase compared with 2021 (as shown in picture) as reported by Kevin Doyle on 26.01.23.

Thus, the para military forces, namely Indo-Tibetan Border Police Force (ITBP), Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), Assam Rifles (AR), guarding the India-China border along with state police have to evolve a pragmatic plan to prevent entry of drugs from Golden Triangle to Arunachal Pradesh. Or else the rising number youth getting caught in the vortex of drugs would continue to swell and the repeated pleas of elected leaders to refrain from drug consumption would alas only reverberate in the blue sky of this Himalayan state!

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