Provinces of Thailand

The Drug Problem

Provinces of Thailand, sandwiched between the converging frontiers of Laos, Burma, and Thailand is an area known to the world as the Golden Triangle. Populated by hilltribes, the region has enjoyed the dubious distinction of being one of the world`s major opium growing centers. Politics and economics have contributed to this status. The hilltribes, with few alternatives to the easily grown opium poppy, have traditionally practised slash and burn agriculture, planting their opium fields in the soils of the northern hills.

by Wayne Burns

But the Thai Government, with active UN assistance and help from the United States, has made it a major goal to wean the hilltribes away from their traditional crop. His Majesty the King of Thailand, also, 20 years ago, through various projects, introduced the tribe people to crops like coffee, apples, pears, peaches and cut flowers. All these efforts have enjoyed considerable success and Bangkok markets are now filled with a wide variety of the fruits and vegetables grown in the cool valleys of the north.

Provinces of Thailand - Drug Cultivation in the Golden Triangle Today

"The governments of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar are all fighting the war against drug producers and traffickers of opium, but more increasingly methamphetamine. In the 1990′s the governments successfully cracked down on producers and traffickers of opium which resulted in a significant reduction in the cultivation in the area. But the reductions that were made in this region for opium resulted in the explosion of opium growing in Afghanistan. Today, Myanmar is the second largest producer of opium in the world after Afghanistan."

And yet the unsettled politics and the remoteness of the region ensure that some opium is still grown, methamphetamines however is more of a problem. Opium is no longer the drug of choice as it was twenty years ago in the triangle.

While trafficking in heroin is an offense with the death penalty as maximum punishment, every year many foreigners are arrested at the airport trying to exit with drugs. Hundreds are presently serving time in Thai prisons, while some have been executed in Malaysia and Singapore, after having been caught coming from Bangkok with heroin, or other drugs.

In addition to heroin, Thailand has a problem with adolescents addicted to sniffing thinnner, glue and solvents. The aimless lives of urban youth, many of whom have come from rural areas, contribute to this problem. Hanging around parks and plazas, these young people are a sorry product of the times.

Drug addiction is of course a byproduct of a much bigger problem, part of which is rapid development and urban growth. In parts of Bangkok, and larger centers like Chiang Mai, where the drug trade and tourism overlap, prostitution and crime are ever present. Visitors should be aware of the strict laws relating to drug consumption in Thailand. While drug consumption remains a persistent problem, most visitors will never see any evidence of it, unless they actively search for it.

For a huge metropolis, Bangkok is surprisingly free of violence. But there are still areas that visitors should avoid. At night, tourists should stick to well-lit streets and should remember that flashy jewelry, gold chains and watches invite theft.

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