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Chinese war on drugs cuts heroin supplies from the Golden Triangle

By Abrad, Jun 22, 2006 | |
  1. Abrad
    thestar.com.my
    BEIJING (AP) - Chinese drug control officials said Thursday their yearlong war on drugs has severely squeezed heroin supplies from the Golden Triangle but warned that they were seeing increased drug-trafficking from Afghanistan.

    The arrest of some 46,000 drug suspects and the seizure of some 6.9 tons of heroin last year curbed the overall heroin supply in China and caused prices of the drug to rise by 30 percent to 35 percent, said Chen Cunyi, deputy secretary-general of the National Narcotics Control Commission.

    In April 2005, Communist leaders announced a "People's War on Drugs,'' appealing for public help to rehabilitate addicts and offering rewards for help in catching traffickers.

    Chen said public enthusiasm for the campaign has been extremely high, with some 250,000 tips on drug activity pouring in from ordinary people.

    "Due to strengthened combatting and interdiction efforts, heroin in the domestic market was in short supply,'' Chen told a news conference. "Its price rose sharply and its purity fell obviously.''

    The short supply might also be due to the mass destruction of poppy fields in Southeast Asia by local authorities. The United Nations said last year that opium poppy cultivation in Myanmar fell 23 percent from 2003 to 2004, and production in nearby Laos fell 43 percent during the same period.

    Thailand and Vietnam have nearly wiped out opium cultivation, the U.N. says.

    Historically, heroin from Southeast Asia's Golden Triangle _ Myanmar, Laos and northern Thailand _ which abuts southern China was blamed for most of the country's drug-related problems.

    Chen said that while the Golden Triangle _ especially Myanmar _ remains China's main source of heroin as well as new drugs such as methamphetamine, the so-called Golden Crescent area of Central Asia is playing an increasing role in China's domestic drugs trade.

    Afghan heroin is being trafficked to China "in a more rampant way,'' he said, without giving specific figures. Last year, arrests involving heroin from Afghanistan were made in the far west region of Xinjiang, the southern province of Guangdong and in Beijing, among other places, Chen said.

    While several years ago drug enforcement officials cracked about two to three trafficking cases per year involving heroin from the Golden Crescent, last year there were eight or nine, he said.

    Drug use in China became popular in the 1980s following economic and social reforms that raised incomes. Since then, use of traditional substances like heroin has exploded and many newer drugs fashionable in the West are increasingly popular.

    The country's number of heroin addicts is holding steady at around 700,000, Chen said. Last year, 298,000 people were treated in compulsory drug treatment centers and 70,000 were housed in re-education-through-labor camps, he said. - AP

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