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Beyond Opium - Making Development sustainable

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High in the mountains of north-west Thailand, deep in the « Golden Triangle », an extraordinary project was created in 1988 by Her Royal Highness the Princess Srinagarindra, mother of the late and much regretted King – His Majesty King Bhumibol – or Rama 9th. She had long been appalled at the environmental damage caused by the shifting cultivation practiced by the impoverished hill-tribe minorities who tried to eke out a living in this “no-go” part of the country. In particular, she drew her inspiration from the many development projects started by her son, who had replaced opium by a variety of licit crops that the market wanted to buy.
But in particular, she refused to accept the apparent inevitability of the grinding poverty experienced in the area - for these denuded mountain lands provided only 7 months of rice for the farmers and their families. They needed a “magic bullet” - a productive dry season crop that would allow them to purchase the 5 months rice that they needed to survive.
For many years, this magic bullet had been opium – a product that grew well, and which was quickly purchased for the international heroin market. 
But with opium came a raft of other criminal activities in this politically sensitive area of the country – gun-running, human trafficking, prostitution and the scourge of drug addiction - and with all this, the dubious reputation of the “Golden Triangle” was born. Clearly something had to change.

Beyond Opium - Making Development sustainable