Photo. Golden Triangle from Sop Ruak in Thailand. It`s the crossing between the borders of Thailand, Burma - Myanmar, and Laos. This is definitely not the safest place in the world. Something going on here!
It`s a merging point of three nations: Laos, Burma and Thailand. This area was once world-famous for its notorious drug trafficking, as there used to be many opium fields around here. However, the local people now sell mostly souvenirs and handicrafts displayed in small shops lined along the main road. The lush green hills and the rivers converging add to the natural charm and beauty of this area.
Opium production has been illegal in Thailand since 1959. Thanks to a highly successful crop substitution program undertaken by the Royal Projects Foundation established by His Majesty King Bhumipol, opium production has largely been reduced in Thailand.
However, across the border in Burma, the Shan United Army, which is fighting the central Burmese government for an independent Shan state, has been accused of funding its war through the sale of opium and heroin.
Photo. Showering in the waterfalls
Photo. Showering in the waterfalls
After a while we left the paradise. Soon we could see how the people grew Opium. For many of the farmers, Opium is there way to survive in these tough environments.
Opium – gold, money, medicine or poison?
Blessing or burden? Opium is one of the world’s oldest medicines and has been cultivated for at least 5000 years as an effective painkiller. Today opium and heroin are associated with addiction and crime. Opium has been cultivated on a large scale in the Golden Triangle to finance wars, such as ethnic conflicts in Burma.
Photo. Tribesmen smoke Opium in a hut.
This has resulted in severe social disruption and the destruction of local traditions. For us it was interesting to take a look in to this bizarre culture, but I can ensure you it was with mixed feelings. From our point of view it didn’t look like a paradise seeing some people having too much of it.
Photo. A girl smokes Opium in a hut.
People who smoked opium looked toothless and tiny skinned. In one village a man took a big inhale from the opium pipe. The man stepped later out on the doorstep; he looked so happy that I for a while thought he would soar up to the sky. But it was just for a while. I could see that drugs don’t work. It only makes you worse.
The smoker was soon back in a transition that likely reminded him about the grey year days. His faces turned grey and he looked like a zombie. So it was our turn. Someone offered us to try too. Should we try smoking for the first time? None of us were smokers. What happened next (read the continuing story in part 3).
This story continues in Part 3: read and see more photos from the disreputable Golden Triangle!
Stein Morten Lund, 20 November 2001
Additional information and links
Etiquette: according to the web site Chiangmai-Chiangrai: (http://welcome-to.chiangmai-chiangrai.com/hiltribe.htm):
• It is kind, but not necessary; to give gifts to people you visit. Some suggestions or alternatives to sweets and cigarettes are balloons and other inexpensive toys, cosmetics, medical supplies antiseptic, mild painkillers such as aspirin, food, fruit, clothing, sewing supplies and foreign coins.
• Follow the advice of your guide; don't be afraid to ask questions. Respect the fact that you are a guest visiting the homes and villages of these people. By showing them that you foreigners are genuinely interested in them; your friendliness, sincerity and goodwill are the most precious gifts you can offer.
For general news, arrangements, tribes, cultures, customs etc. in the Golden Triangle and the rest of Thailand:
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