OPIUM: The silent destruction of a village
Opium is one of the oldest drugs in the world. The recreational use of the drug in Asia reached its height at the end of the 1800’s, where there were over ten million opium smokers.
Before the arrival of Europeans in Afghanistan, Burma was the greatest producer of opium, which they exported in great quantities together with heroin throughout Asia. With the political changes that have been taking place in these last years, Burma or Myanmar, as it is now known, has begun again to produce and export great quantities of opium. Inevitably, this relaunch has had the effect of increasing consumption, above all in the poorest areas and the most isolated villages, a consumption which is doubling almost every year.
If on one hand opium is the only source of income for poor peasants, on the other, opium and heroin addiction is causing irreparable damage within the Burmese social fabric and that of neighboring countries, such as the region of Nagaland in India. All this has enriched only the international drug cartels.
One of these areas is the district of Mon, on the border between India and Burma where, is the village of Longwa. This remote area, which is difficult to reach, with almost impassable dirt roads, has been forgotten by both nations. For this reason, the district of Mon has been chosen for traffickers as the point of entry for drugs into India. The couriers arrive from Burma on foot, along paths that wind over the mountains and pass through the dense vegetation of the tropical forest. With no prevention or control over the territory, the consumption of opium has spread so rapidly that many men and boys have become slaves to the drug. In some areas a third of the men are addicted and slaves to opium, they do no work, and squander the family’s patrimony on the substance.
The women however, wake at dawn in order to spend the whole day barefoot in the tea fields, working for only a dollar and a half. They provide the sole economic support of the families in these villages, while the men gather in a hut to smoke opium and lose themselves in the ‘apathetic high’ that this drug produces.
Within a short period of time whole villages will be inhabited solely by men and boys completely addicted to opium, generations of ‘zombies’ who will leave their families to sink into desperation, and their region into absolute poverty.
All images and text © Emiliano Pinnizzotto
By Emiliano Pinnizzotto
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