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Food shortages force Chin locals to sell opium

Mar 20, 2009 (DVB), Chin state locals who suffered food shortages last year due to mass flowering of bamboo have been forced to grow and sell opium to generate income, said a researcher who visited the region recently.

Last month, Chin ethnic researcher Pu Be Jong visited the areas in Chin state, including Plattwa township, affected by the food crisis. The mass flowering of bamboo occurs about once in every 50 years, and attracts hordes of rodents which destroy food crops.

Pu Be Jong said that local people from villages in Plattawa township, alongside the Kaladan River, were growing poppy crops to earn money for food.

"The villagers have been secretly growing poppy in nearby forests since September last year," he said.

"The locals said they didn't really want to make money through such a business but they had no other choice."

The opium produced after the harvest earlier this year was sold in Bangladeshi and Indian towns across the border.

Burma is the world's second biggest exporter of opium after Afghanistan, according to the United States.

Reporting by Khin Maung Soe Min