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burma drugs and generals: PARIS

Burma Readers, Important story from Le Monde Diplomatic, translated here in=
 English, about the Burmese drug traffic and the role of leading Slorc gene=
rals. We did want to send earlier but have experienced computer difficultie=
s the last two days. You will see here some very good investigative reporti=
Dawn Star ,UVI.net Paris =

Headline: Total Victory of the Burmese Generals, The King of the Opium Rall=
y - and the Investors
Keywords: Khun Sa, drugs, opium, United Nations Human Rights Commission, Mo=
ng Aye, MTA, Mong Tai Army, Slorc, Chan state, Chan nationalists, Chan army=
, Wa, UWSA, General Maung Aye, General Thin Htut , Khun Seng , General Khin=
 Nyunt, Ohy Gyaw, Lo Hsing Han, Yang Mu An,  Kokang, Thailand Narcotics Off=
ice, ONCB, Spot, Total, Unocal, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Salween river, Than S=
hwe,Khin Nyunt,
Source: Le Monde Diplomatique, Mai 1996, (translation Dawn Star, UVI.net, P=
Section :  ebn
Section: Burmadrug

by Andr=E9 and Louis Boucaud*
(*authors of " Burma's Golden Triangle, " On the Trail of Opium Warlords ",=
 Asia 2000, Hongkong, 1992)

On April 16th, a report was presented to  the United Nations Human Rights C=
ommission (Geneva) which cited massive use of torture, assassination and fo=
rced labor in Burma. It only confirmed a reality already known but that har=
dly disturbs  neither the democratic governments of the world nor foreign i=
nvestors. Rangoon's dictatorship, after having crushed the virtual whole of=
 the armed resistance movement, bagged " opium king " Khun Sa, now undivide=
ly rules the drug network, and only so much raised  its finger, its geste i=
n form to the international community.

" Khun Sa, the opium king, has given up ". As soon as the information sent =
by the Reuters  News Agency  fell on the teletype machines at the first of =
the year, all Burma watchers were taken aback. On December 31 1995, the Bur=
mese army, without firing a shot, took control of the entrenched camps of t=
he Mong Tai Army (MTA), along the length of the Thai border, in the Doi Lan=
g wilderness, and, on January 1st, SLORC  (State Law and Order Restoration =
Council), military trucks penetrated into the sactuary retreat of  Ho Mong =
valley, general headquarters of Khun Sa.

On order of their chief, the powerful rebel 18,000-strong Chan army came to=
 surrender without combat. For the last two decades, Khun Sa defied the wor=
ld, and built a considerable political-military organisation. Then, in Dece=
mber 1993, he proclaimed the independence of the Chan State, and severely r=
enounced his outrageous ambitions.

The leaders of the SLORC  junta immediately capitalised on their unexpected=
 success: did not his surrender  show the determination of the government's=
 war against drugs? Rather, nothing is less certain...

In fact, to save his head and a minimum of power, Khun Sa betrayed and sacr=
ificed the Chan nationalists. He exchanged toasts with delegations of Slorc=
 military officials who had helicoptered into his general hgq.  Khun Sa aba=
ndoned his arms, including  Sam anti-aircraft missles, and he gave up contr=
ol of his territories. =

That sudden turn about of events followed internal discord within the MTA. =
 Chan nationalists had criticized Khun Sa for his role as a dope dealer. Th=
e desertion in June 1995 of his lieutenants and of several thousand men vex=
ed him cruelly, and fell hard after the betrayal of a number of supporters =
in Thailand of whom he once relied on. And during several months, at the re=
quest of the Burmese generals,  Wa military troops (United Wa State Army, U=
WSA), who signed a cease-fire with the Rangoon authorities, relaunched atta=
cks against MTA Chan forces , in Mong Yawn valley near the Thai frontier. K=
hun Sa, felt aged,  and told some of his closest associates of his fear of =
dying. All these reasons can explain the " volte-face " of the hardened war=
lord, ambitious and charismatic as was Khun Sa..

Only a small band of  a few loyal campanions had been involved in the secre=
t negotations with SLORC. Since November 1995, M. Lao Dai, his personal sec=
reatry, was in charge of establishing contact with General Tin Htut, " Boss=
 " of the SLORC Eastern Command, based at Taunggyi. At the highest level, K=
hun Sa's uncle, Khun Seng, led  negotiations with General Maung Aye, comman=
der-in-chief of the Burmese army and vice-president of  SLORC. General Maun=
g Aye, once the commander at Taunggyi, like all the generals that came befo=
re him and later occupied the same post, was generously paid off by Khun Sa=
 in exchange for a relative status quo control of the region. The burmese d=
emocratic opposition did not hesitate explain away  the limited military  g=
ains of the Slorc offensive against the MTA between December 1993 and Janua=
ry 1994  by the financial ties between Khun Sa and General Mong Aye, more a=
nd more generously rewarded, that gradually he advanced higher within the S=
lorc hierarchy. And military operations, regularly announced, never happene=

Nothing has leaked of the nature of the secret deal between Khun Sa and SLO=
RC, except, according to Chan sources in the MTA, that the former rebel obt=
ained a guarantee never to be extradited to the United States as demanded b=
y the american government. Last January, SLORC foreign affairs minister, Oh=
n Gyaw, evoked the absence of an extradition treaty with Washington; furthe=
rmore, General Khin Nyunt, head of SLORC intelligence, announced a policy o=
f national reconciliation. For them, Khun Sa had become a leading represena=
tive of a small ethical minority, when only a short time before he was offi=
cially branded a " narcotics-terrorist ".  He retains in principle command =
of a 3,000 man army, maintained by the Slorc government serving as a state =
militia. Khun Sa's other recruits in the MTA army have already been sacrifi=
ced, taken in trucks to Langkho, and detained in a  immense camp, destined =
to increase the forced labor ranks of SLORC's " National Work and Developme=
nt Projects  ". One thousand and three hundred former soldiers among them h=
ave already been relocated on  the Mawk Mai region railway.

SLORC thus oversaw the disappearance of one of the most powerful armed resi=
stance forces in Burma, and one which threatened their projects in the Chan=
 State. All that remained now was to convince international opinion of thei=
r genuine determination to eradicate the opium trade. In fact, during the l=
ast few years, Khun Sa controlled only forty percent of the total  Burmese =
heroin production, even while he continued to increase his ties with Thai n=
etworks, which served to control the Thai border, with networks already reo=
rganised through Laos and Cambodia. According to a Chan source, the former =
army of Khun Sa will abandon the Ho Mong valley, too close to Thailand, and=
 to be redeployed in northern Burma near the towns of Tang Yang and Loi Maw=
=2E That done, the Burmese will be able to counter the influence of the Was=
 and the Kokanais in the regon, already rich in poppy fields, well-known fo=
r their high quality of opium. For the most part, the poppy production fall=
s under zones controlled by the Burmese army or by the Khun Sa militia forc=
es that hav signed peace with Rangoon, in the Kokang and Was districts.

The Burmese generals cultivate close relations with the drug bosses like Lo=
 Hsing Han or Yang Mu An, in the Kokang. At the end of last year, General K=
hin Nyunt returned to Panghsang, center of  command headquarters of  the UW=
SA on the Chinese border, in order to persuade the two Was leaders, Chao Ni=
 Lai and Pao Yo Chang, to stage a demonstration of drug destruction.  The W=
as dragged out talks, then refused. Nonetheless, the operation took place w=
eeks after the surrender of Khun Sa. Hundreds of kilos of opium and marijua=
na were burned in front of rows of invited press and guests, but they forgo=
t to mention that opium production has increased to several thousands of to=

The Chinese has become the transit country replacing Thailand for taking dr=
ugs out of Burma. The vice-governor of Yunnan declared, April 1995, that 50=
 tons of Burmese heroin were exported each year from Yunnan.  In technical =
cooperation with the French company SPOT, Thailand launched a project of sa=
tellite photo detection and analysis capable of localizing with precisions =
the zones of poppy  cultivation. However, in order to adequately read the p=
hotos, a perfect knowledge of the photographed region is necessary. Once al=
l the required information is assembled, it is then possible to have a reas=
onably good estimate of the surface area of poppy production, taking into a=
ccount soil quality and rain levels, along with various climatic conditions=

General Chavalit Yodmani, who directed the Thailand Narcotics Office, ONCB,=
 until the end of last year, had proposed that the SPOT program be extended=
 throughout Asia and the South East. While China, Laos and Vietnam favor th=
e incentive, that is not the case with Burma. It is true that, during a con=
ference in 1993, in Chiang Mai, photos had already confirmed the location o=
f cultivated poppy zones inside Burma, principally in regions under Slorc c=

>From this time on, Slorc has its hands free to carry out its projects in th=
e Chan State. Planned dams for the Salween river, are of particular importa=
nce to Thailand's energy and water  needs, as well as for the Chinese of Yu=
nnan. Their presence is visible in every city of the Chan State, and their =
technicians are omnipresent on new infrastructure construction, for example=
, the future bridge of Wan Hsa La on the Salween. A rumor also puts  a chin=
ese intermediary in the negotiations between Khun Sa and Slorc. And, a week=
 after his surrender, a high-level junta delegation, led by the ruling gene=
rals Than Shwe and Khin Nyunt, was welcomed in China. =

Already in February, 1995, immediately after the fall of the main Karen reb=
el camps, Burmese leaders signed the construction deal for the Yadana gas p=
ipeline with the French company Total, and its american partner, Unocal. Th=
at too, because in the south, Slorc had made progressive gains, having obta=
ined a cease-fire agreement with the minority ethnic group, Mon, from the s=
ame region where the gas pipeline construction is planned. With the Mon reb=
ellion surpressed, the Slorc generals and their partners, the directors of =
the oil companies can breathe more easily, because the remaining few rebel =
Karen factions and opposing burmans no longer have the means to seriously d=
amage the pipeline construction.  Further, in a public relations campaign o=
rchestrated by Slorc concerned, Total and Unocal finance several social pro=
grams and medical dispensaries, all the while continuing to ignore that a p=
art of the work done on their pipeline construction is composed of Mon and =
Karen villagers recruited by force and subjected to abominable living condi=

Also, in 1995, Slorc removed another source of pressure, this time from the=
 outside, by releasing Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace=
 Prize, who had been under house arrest for six years.

The junta obtained satisfaction from influential foreign countries, donors =
of development assistance programs, who had made the extension of  future a=
id loans conditional to the release of the woman who is the symbol of th de=
mocratic opposition. From the day after her release on July 11, 1995, Japan=
 lifted its ban on letters of credit. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, using video-tap=
es smuggled and broadcast outside the country, has called upon foreign comp=
anies not to pour investment into Burma.  " We need investment, but investm=
ent too early will be against the process of democracy, and even against th=
e real development needs of the country ", she declared. But the local medi=
a is totally controlled by the Slorc government and ignores her appeal.

(1) Read Andr=E9 et Louis Boucard, " Derri=E8re les sourires de la 'narco-d=
ictature' birmane ". " La dictature birmane sur la voie capitaliste ", and =
Renaldo Gassi, " Le viol permanent du peuple birmane ", respectivement dans=
 Le Monde diplomatique de juin 1994, mai et d=E9cembre 1995.