Right After the conclusion of the press conference on 26 June, International Day Against Drug Abuse and Trafficking, when I repeated the decades-old but yet-to-be-tried solution of a political settlement among Burma’s belligerents as a first step to resolve the drug problem, a Thai security officer, who had been following the drug situation in Burma, told me: “Ajarn (Pali: Ajariya, teacher), after reading most of what you have written, I have a different idea (about resolving the problem)."
I knew what was coming and I wasn’t wrong. He thought rich Western countries were being allowed to grow poppies so their product, opium, could be used as medicine, while Asian countries, whose poverty is compounded by myriad health problems, are being banned from growing poppies as downright unjust and unethical.
I’m sure he was right. According to Amsterm-based Transnational Institute (TNI), there are 7 countries that are legally growing poppies for medicinal purposes:
The Economist, 8 October 2005, also tells us that only “24 % of the world’s pain relief needs are being met while 77% of the world’s morphine and codeine are consumed by just 7 developed nations. Yet in Afghanistan, the world’s biggest opium producer, such drugs are almost completely unavailable”.
After reading them, three questions, without cracking one’s brain, may arise one after another, to anyone who’s concerned about Burma’s opium issue:
- Why is it that we are not allowed to grow opium?
- Is it because the world (read West) only wants us to buy opium-based medicines from them instead of manufacturing them (medicines) by ourselves? Or is it because of other reasons, for instance, because we are yellow/black skinned and not white like them?
- What should we do about this? Especially for leader of a country, what comes first, the world (again, read West) or our people?
If President Thein Sein and his administration is able to come up with the right answers and have blood and guts enough to make them into reality, you can bet he and his party are going to be our government for as long as they want it.
However, that doesn’t mean he and his Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) can forget about the political settlement. Because it is the only thing that will bring forth what are most wanted in our country: Peace and Rule of Law. When there are Peace and Rule of Law, legalizing opium production for medicinal use will have the adequate check and balance needed to see that the age-old Burmese saying, “Moderation is remedy, Excess peril” is well enforced.