The Golden Triangle- where Burma, Thailand and Laos meet

Today we visited the Golden Triangle where Burma, Thailand and Laos meet, with the Mekong Riverproviding some form of a border between each country. Needless to say that if you wanted to swim across the countries or dock your motor boat at the other side of the Mekong, you can. The unclear nature of the boundaries between each country has allowed for the building of a casino on the fringes of Laos after the last border control check point. Casinos are illegal but not if they are in the in-between lands!!!!

The Mekong river, with Burma on the left, Lao on the right and Thailand at the bottom

Map showing how Thailand borders Burma, China and Laos in the North. It also borders Malaysia in the south

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Golden Triangle got its name in the 1970s because of the booming opium trade and the farming of poppy flowers in the area. Opium trade was introduced into the region by the British, Portuguese and Dutch traders who only bought goods from China, like tea, if they could pay in opium. Opium and the drugs industry have funded the Burmese army and paramilitary groups in Columbia, but what is most interesting is how the CIA has played a role in supporting the opium industry. It is known that during the Cold War, the CIA supported anti-communist groups by providing arms but also in assisting in the opium industry. Unfortunately this means that Afghanistan is still the number one producer of opium and the Golden Triangle is the second. Nevertheless, in the 1980s,  Her Royal Highness Princess Srinagarindra the Princess Mother, late mother of His Majesty the King of Thailand ,  initiated an awareness raising programme and educational training of the hill tribes living the the Golden Triangle in order to combat the effects of the opium trade in the region. According to the Opium Museum at Chiang Rai in the Golden Triangle, this has succeeded in curbing the opium trade as farmers are not as dependent on poppy farming for survival.

“Addicts: are they not also humans? Since they are human, shouldn’t we help them? If we can help them, it will be giving them new lives and so we should do it.”- Saying of the Princess Mother.

It was good to visit the Opium Museum as, while I knew the opium trade was the trigger for the demise of the Chinese empire during the 1800s,  I never really realised the impact of opium trading on Southeast Asia.

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