Scott E Lukas

GOLDEN TRIANGLE AS DRUG SOURCE The world's largest illicit OPIUM-growing area is the Golden Triangle—a region in Southeast Asia of some 150,000 square miles (388,500 sq km). The Golden Triangle extends from the Chin hills in the west of Myanmar (formerly Burma), north into China's Yunnan province, east into Laos and Thailand's northern provinces, and south into the Kayah state of Myanmar. It encompasses all the Shan state in Myanmar and supplied some 35 percent of the HEROIN used in the United States between the 1960s and early 1990s. Between 1990 and 1999, however, changes in heroin trafficking greatly reduced the importation of heroin from Southeast Asia. In 1990, Myanmar, Thailand, and Laos supplied about 56 percent of the heroin consumed in the United States. By 1999, Latin America supplied most of the heroin to the United States, accounting for 82 percent of the heroin seized in the U.S. The Southeast Asian opium crop, which was on the rise in the early 1990s, suffered a sharp decline due to adverse weather in the later 1990s.

The United States Government has supplied millions of dollars to Myanmar and Thailand in an effort to reduce OPIUM-POPPY (Papaver somni-ferum) cultivation and interdict heroin destined for the United States. As they have done for years, disenfranchised tribal people cultivate opium as a medicinal and cultural product, as a cash crop to buy food and supplies and improve living conditions, and as a means to procure weapons. Political events in Southeast Asia are complex and are changing constantly. The U.S. government has managed a limited success in helping to reduce opium cultivation in Laos and Thailand; it is anxious over the increased production in Myanmar and the increasing flow of heroin exiting that country via China to Hong Kong, through Rangoon toward Malaysia and Singapore, and through India and Bangladesh.

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