Myanmar is showing the face of reform to the world. But our western neighbour is also displaying what a long, tough road still lies ahead. President Thein Sein and the elected parliament are rightly celebrating a new foreign investment law. At the same time, the country is at the centre of controversies over its failure to deal with drug trafficking, and is being rightly condemned around the world for its treatment of Rohingya people.
Myanmar will soon celebrate the second anniversary of the release of democracy heroine Aung San Suu Kyi. There will be little celebrating in the north or the west of the country, however. In those areas, life is tougher than ever, despite the efforts of the president and parliament. In Rakhine state in the west, and in the northern areas where Shan and Kachin people live, "reform" is just another word, and life remains cheap.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported last week that confident drug gangs have once again increased the size of the country's opium fields. Myanmar is already the world's second-largest producer of poppies and heroin. The gangs and cartels that make 60-plus tonnes of heroin stepped up opium production this year from 43,600 hectares to 51,000 hectares _ 319,000 rai. By comparison, Thai villages produced opium this year on 1,300 rai, with virtually no heroin production.