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SLORC baits U.S

<TDAT> NYT-07-14-94 1923EDT

  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
  officer said.
     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.''