Almost 2,000 Rais of illicit opium cultivation still exists in Thailand.
Most of the opium cultivation in Thailand happens in Omkoi District, Chiang Mai Province, and its neighboring districts. Omkoi has about 60,000 people of which 80% belongs to hill-tribe communities, mainly Karen. The district is also considered one of the poorest areas of Thailand.
Why is Omkoi a safe haven for an illicit opium cultivation?
Located the furthest south of Chiang Mai and fortified by mountainous rainforest, Omkoi becomes a safe haven for an illicit opium cultivation.
Amid Mountains and Rain
90% of its area is covered by rainforest and several villages are in a valley, causing law enforcement difficult to maintain.
During a monsoon season, most of the dirt roads are cut off making it a perfect hiding place from a local government.
With a few opportunities, Karen hill tribe people have no many choices of livelihood to sustain their rising household expenses.
Once we stop growing opium, what would we do to survive?
Local Karen hill tribe people used to rely on an opium cultivation as a main source of income. Getting them rid of the opium means risking their lives and leading to an unprecedented poverty. A solution to this problem is not about enforcing a strict law but to foster the local people with a new livelihood.
Cotton weaving will not only serve as an alternative livelihood but also a tool to empower Karen ladies.