The Straits Times (Singapore)
UN anti-drug drive to focus on Afghan opium
By R. Senthilnathan
ERADICATING opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan and
setting up a "security belt" around that country to arrest the
spill-over effect will be a top priority of the United Nations
anti-drug programme in the coming two years.
According to newly released data, the UN Drug Control
Programme intends to double its expenditure in the Central and
West Asian region -- which includes Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan
as well as the Central Asian countries of former Soviet Union --
to US$24 million (S$39.3 million) in 1998-99.
More than half the programme's 1998-99 budget -- US$13.2
million -- will to go towards crop eradication in Afghanistan,
which is among the major opium producers and source of
four-fifths of the heroin seized in Europe.
This is more than twice the US$6.5 million spent during 1996-97.
The security belt around Afghanistan is to ensure that its
neighbours -- Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan,
Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan -- will not be used as transit
countries for Europe-bound heroin and morphine.
Afghanistan is a top priority after reports of increased cultivation
of opium there and the slow, but certain involvement of
neighbouring countries in the drug trade.
The programme's most recent survey in Afghanistan estimated
that opium poppy production in 1996-97 rose to 2,800 tonnes,
almost 25 per cent up on the previous year.
This is 25 per cent more than opium produced in the other part
of the Golden Triangle -- Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.
Mr Bernard Frahi, the UN drug programme's chief for the region,
said that ideal weather had played a role in boosting Afghan
There were signs that some farmers had used agricultural
equipment and fertiliser given as part of international
rehabilitation programmes to produce opium.
UN officials are worried that negative effects of Afghan opium
production are extending beyond the producer and end-user
countries and is affecting neighbouring countries, which are
vulnerable because they lack drug control expertise.
The programme will increase spending to US$6.6 million to help
neighbours set up border checks and improve airport detection of
drugs in the next two years.