[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index
SLORC baits U.S
<TDAT> NYT-07-14-94 1923EDT
BURMA OFFERS TO TRACK DOWN OPIUM WAR LORD
By PHILIP SHENON
c.1994 N.Y. Times News Service
YANGON, Myanmar The generals who run Myanmar are making an
offer that they hope the United States will find impossible to
resist: lift the arms embargo against this country, and the army
will bring down the opium warlord responsible for most of the
heroin sold on American streets.
The new offer, which military officials here say has been
broached with State Department officials in recent weeks, is not
expected to sway the Clinton administration, which has repeatedly
expressed disdain for the junta and its human rights record.
Still, American officials say the proposal could be important if
it signals a new willingness by the army to destroy the opium
operation run by Khun Sa, the drug trafficker who recently declared
himself president of a newly independent state on Myanmar's eastern
Myanmar, formerly Burma, is the source of most of the world's
opium, the raw material of heroin. And most of the opium grown in
Myanmar is cultivated in rugged mountain areas controlled by Khun
Sa, who was indicted on narcotics charges in the United States in
The junta reported last month that fighting since May with Khun
Sa's army, which doubles as a rebel force of the Shan ethnic group,
had taken the lives of 250 rebels and 196 government soldiers.
``We've begun to hurt him,'' said Lt. Col. Kyaw Thein, a
spokesman for the Burmese junta's anti-narcotics program. ``If we
can, we would like to destroy Khun Sa's army and wipe it off the
But he said Myanmar would need help from the United States,
which has cut off all aid to the junta, including military
assistance, to protest human rights violations. The nation's
leading dissident, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, winner of the 1991 Nobel
Peace Prize, is about to enter her sixth year under house arrest in
Yangon, formerly Rangoon. Her political party, the National League
for Democracy, won national elections in 1990, but the junta
refused to turn over power to the elected legislature.
``We alone cannot do this job,'' Kyaw Thein said of the drug
war. ``If the U.S. really wants Khun Sa to be wiped out of this
area, the first thing they will need to do is help us with arms and
ammunition. We cannot buy any of that sort of thing.''
Since 1990, the Burmese army has received a trove of weapons,
worth an estimated $1 billion, from China, the country's closest
ally. But Burmese officials say the Chinese-made arsenal of jet
fighters, ships, and tanks is of no use in the mountainous terrain
controlled by Khun Sa. ``What we need from America are helicopters
and smaller arms, which we can use in the mountains,'' a military
In the last two years, the army has reached cease-fire
agreements with several ethnic rebel groups, allowing it to
concentrate on Khun Sa after several years of waging only a nominal
campaign against him.
In its most recent annual report on drug trafficking in Myanmar,
the State Department accused the junta of ``only minimal narcotics
law enforcement.'' The report was critical of peace settlements
between the junta and two ethnic groups, the Wa and the Kokang,
that will permit the groups to continue harvesting opium for at
least several years.
Western diplomats and human rights groups have questioned
whether settlements with some of the opium-cultivating ethnic
groups were intended in part to allow military officers to share in
the huge proceeds from the drug trade.
The State Department report cited reliable accounts of ``police,
customs, and army personnel who are paid to acquiesce or
participate in drug trafficking,'' although it said there were only
``occasional, unsubstantiated allegations of corruption among
senior Burmese officials.''