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“Golden Triangle” – ajar secrets of drug business in Thailand

The history of the Golden Triangle, the territory at the junction of the borders of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos, resembles an iceberg, with a small visible part and a huge underwater …

The Golden Triangle: We are in Thailand. Right Laos. Left Myanmar (Burma)

And this is not surprising, because we are talking about one of the worst enemies of mankind – drugs.

It all started after the end of World War II. The opium poppy, the traditional agricultural culture of the peoples of Southeast Asia, has become an element of big politics and the interest of several political forces at once: the Chinese Kuomintang (armed groups opposing Mao Zedong), the nationalist movement of the Shan people (Myanmar), Indian rebel groups opposed to the British colonial dominion, and several others. Each of these forces had their own goals and objectives, but everyone needed money. A system for the mass production of opium was created and an extensive network of its sales around the world was organized. The inaccessible mountainous regions of three neighboring countries, in which opium poppy became the main agricultural crop, became known as the Golden Triangle because of the fabulous profits brought by the drug trade.

The Golden Triangle area – the borders of the three states of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar (Burma)

Over time, politics faded into the background, the production of opiates in the Golden Triangle has become an ordinary criminal business, in fact, the same as the illegal trade in arms or people. Heroin, the worst plant drug, claimed millions of lives around the world, and the number of victims of internecine wars of international underground drug trafficking syndicates will probably never be recognized by mankind.

At the end of the last century, the Golden Triangle became a serious problem for the governments of a number of Southeast Asian countries, primarily Thailand, which is interested in the development of tourism. Tough measures were taken – the large-scale elimination of opium poppy crops, the introduction of the death penalty for its cultivation, smuggling and marketing. The death penalty for drug crimes, by the way, is still threatening in Thailand now, as in neighboring Malaysia and Singapore.

Measures to eliminate opium plantations had a positive effect, but another problem arose – the economic situation of the population in the Golden Triangle zone, which had lost a significant share of earnings in growing opium poppy, began to deteriorate sharply. The Thai government decided on a nontrivial and rather risky step – the creation in the northern province of Chiang Rai of a tourist center dedicated to the dark history of opium and everything connected with it.

Thailand Tourism Center Northern Chiang Rai Province

A tour of the “Golden Triangle” today is quite accessible for tourists, you can go directly from Pattaya and Phuket, where Russian tourists most often relax, by local airplanes. True, the guides do not get tired of repeating on the way that the opium poppy is no longer produced in Thailand, reminiscent of the harsh, even death penalty, punishment for drug trafficking, and specify that in the other two countries, Myanmar and Laos, with this evil not over. Such excursions are also interesting without regard to the main theme: the area in the province of Chiang Rai, on the banks of the Mekong, is very picturesque, here you can enjoy the excellent mountain air, visit ancient Buddhist temples.

Mekong River at the junction of three countries – Thailand, Laos, Myanmar

In the small town of Chiang Saen, you can visit the Opium Museum, the only one in the world.

Opium Museum in the small Thai town of Chiang Saen

Entrance to the Opium Museum in the small Thai town of Chiang Saen

Beginning of the Opium Museum

The creators of the museum found a solution to a rather difficult task – to tell visitors about the history of growing opium poppy, about its consumption, use in medicine in the countries of the East, completely excluding the promotion of opiates as narcotic substances.

Museum Opium Exposure

The guides show tourists the original devices for smoking opium (some of them are real works of art), talk about different non-drug intoxication methods of its use, including in national cuisines of different nations.

Original Opium Smoking Accessories

At the same time, the “dark side” of opium consumption is also on display: in the paintings and photographs you can see the eerie atmosphere of opium smokers, and the wax figures of opium smokers can terrify.

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