Myanmar farmers struggle to turn away from illicit but lucrative opium crops. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.
At a remote farm in a northern state in Myanmar a lucrative crop -- poppies. It's part of an illicit drug trade in the Mekong region. Myanmar, Laos and Thailand make up the so-called Golden Triangle, which churns out a quarter of the world's opium. In 2015, Myanmar was second only to Afghanistan in opium production, according to the UN. Troels Vester of the UN says farmers need an alternative. (SOUNDBITE) (English) UNODC COUNTRY MANAGER, TROELS VESTER, SAYING: "Farmers are not doing this because they're criminals, they're doing this to survive." Farmers say it comes down to money. Authorities say the illicit industry is worth billions of dollars, and is driven by poverty, conflict and Chinese demand. (SOUNDBITE) (Burmese) CHAIRMAN OF MYANMAR ANTI NARCOTICS ASSOCIATION, SOE WIN, SAYING: "There was no support from the outside world and sanctions during the military regime. That's why the government had tried to, within their abilities, to introduce agriculture and livestock substitution. But frankly speaking, it was not effective." Authorities hope for help from the international community -- but it will be a difficult fight to end production of one of the regions most lucrative crops.