Poppy plant, from which opium, the very basic material of narcotic drugs is produced, is neither an indigenous plant of Myanmar nor opium a native product of the country. Thereby ‘Bein”, Myanmar word for opium is not exactly Myanmar but rather a word, which has its origin in India.

       Poppy plant was introduced into Myanmar from India by sea. Actually poppy seedlings were brought to India by early travellers from Mediterranean region crossing the Asia Minor and from India, poppy was eventually imported into Myanmar by seafarers.

       As it is known as “Ifyum” in its native land it becomes “Ihiphana” in Pali and “Abhena” in Sanskrit languages respectively. From these words of ancient languages it evolutionized into “Aphein” in India. During the course of time, it became “Bein” in Mon-Myanmar dialect.

Originally, poppy is a native flora of Eastern Europe around Mediterranean region, Southern Europe and West Asia, and from those places, it scattered to the whole world. It is known that characteristics of poppy, plant and medicinal values of opium were recorded on cuneiform tablets in the list of medicinal plants by Sumerians who lived in Mesopotamia, West Asia, about 4000 BC. Sumarians called the poppy plant “Hulgil” meaning joyful plant. Furthermore, it was found in records that around 10th century A.D, Arab physicians started to use opium in medicines for treatment of certain diseases. According to historical records it is known that through the Arab traders and merchants, poppy cultivation and opium production of Central Europe spread to Asia and Eastern countries. The botanical name for poppy plant is Papaver Somniferum. Papaver in Latin means “to make one sleepy” and in full it means literally “the plant which makes one sleepy”.

       In 1803, a German scientist called Steiner separated micomic acid and alkaline base from opium, thereby producing a new chemical. He named the new product “morphium” in honour of Morpheus the god of dreams in Greek mythology and later it became morphine. Actually, morphine was intended for use in the treatment of opium addicts but it was later discovered that morphine was stronger and more addictive than opium.

       In 1874, two British physicians Dr. G. H. Beckett and Dr. C. P. Alder Wright produced Diacetyl Morphine, which is stronger than ordinary morphine. Now it is widely known as heroin because in 1899, Dr. H. Dresser, a German physician developed Diacetyl Morphine to the world market by that name. Heroin is not an English word but German and it literally means ‘heroic treatment’ or ‘small matter with high power”.

       In fact there were two leading British citizens who were against and condemned the British monopoly of poppy cultivation and opium production. In 1783, the first British Viceroy Warren Hastings said that except for export, it was not desirable to import opium into the country, as it was simply a harmful luxury item. Likewise in 1843, Lord Ashley, a British member of Parliament opposed and criticized the British government’s investment in the opium production. He said that though Britain is a Christian country, it allowed her colonies to grow and export opium and was even monopolizing the trade and this atrocious dealing not only affected the ethic and dignity of the state but also was not proper for any self respecting and cultured country.

  • Opium found its way to Myanmar

  • Drug Control Efforts in the days of Myanmar Kings
  • British Colonialist Era
  • Post Independence Era
  • The Kuomintang(KMT) Aggression
  • Drug Production and Trafficking by Armed Insurgents
  • Loimaw Defense Group led by U Khun Sa
  • Kokang Defense Forces led by Lao-sit Han
  • Drug Production and Trafficking by Burma Communist Party