10 April 2003

Thai Alternative to Drugs on Exhibit in Vienna

VIENNA, 10 April (UN Information Service) -- Thailand was among the first countries in the world to succeed in the sustainable elimination of opium poppy cultivation. This was achieved during the past 30 years through highland alternative development projects which helped poor ethnic minority villagers, with support from the international community, including the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Yesterday the Ambassador of Thailand, Mr. Somkiati Ariyapruchya, and UNODC Executive Director, Antonio Maria Costa, inaugurated an exhibition on the Doi Tung Project in the Austria Center, in the context of the forty-sixth session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs.

The project, located in the heart of the so-called "Golden Triangle," in the Chang Rai District, is a symbolic reflection of Thailand's success with alternative development. Her Royal Highness Srinakarindra the Princess Mother, mother of His Majesty the King of Thailand, initiated the project which the Mae Fah Luang Foundation is implementing.

The Doi Tung Project is divided into three phases. The first phase lasted five years and focused on building up the confidence of the hill tribes whose only traditional source of income had been poppy cultivation. Infrastructural facilities were provided and reforestation took place with the participation of the private sector and the involvement of the entire province. Jobs were created and a centre to rehabilitate drug addicts was set up. The second phase, from 1994 until 2002, improved the people's livelihood through a process of sustainable development that provided economic security for the villagers. High-quality agricultural produce, handicrafts and home-industry products have found their way into the market. Now this project has entered its final phase whereby an administrative structure will be established for communities to become self-governing, with social and economic development continuing to be based on the sustainable use of resources and conservation of the environment.

Doi Tung's experiences are now being shared with other major opium-producing countries, such as Afghanistan and Myanmar. As demonstrated in the Doi Tung Project in Thailand, a long-term commitment from both the host government and the international community can bring success.

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