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Narcotics, SLORC and Constructive E

Subject: Narcotics, SLORC and Constructive Engagement

Thailand Times: "Narcotics, SLORC and Constructive Engagement" 
October 6, 1996
By Kanbawza Win

Unholy alliance or the three in one seems to be
paradoxical. But its time to know the
brutal facts. Burma continues to reign as the greatest of
the heroin producing country and is likely to retain its
title for many years to come.
This year opium poppy cultivation covered only 154,000
hectares and yielded 2,340 metric tons of opium gum --
enough to produce 230 tons of heroin to satisfy the US 
heroin market. The drug trade in Shan State continues
virtually unchecked and the SLORC [State Law and Order
Restoration Council] generals continue to ignore ethnic
drug trafficking groups such as the United Wa State Army
and the Kokang militia, with whom they have negotiated
cease fires.
It is obvious the Burmese generals have not the will,
nor the ability, nor the resources to take effective action
to suppress heroin. Due to bad weather the opium production
declined in 1994 but has rebound and most of the opium
cultivation traditionally in the mountainous regions of the
Shan plateau has been expanding into areas under SLORC's 
control of the west bank of the Salween, as well as in Chin 
state along Burma's border with India. (US satellite photo).
The SLORC officers posted in Shan state visited rural
villages encouraging the peasants to plant more opium 
justifying that this is the only way to pay taxes, while in
some remote isolate hamlets the military delivers the poppy
seeds and provides technical assistance during the harvest
time. Forced labor, quite a common feature in Burma, is not
confined to public works, railway construction or porters
for the army only but also in the forced narco agriculture.
The peaceful entry of the Burmese Army into Ho Mong,
the headquarters of the Mong Tai army early this year, is 
an authentic proof that the drug kingpin Khun Sa and SLORC
are in the same boat. More so, Khun Sa has not only been
amnestied or rehabilitated but has been publicly honored
and the Burmese media have lovingly refer to him as U Khun
Sa, a dignified person at par with SLORC generals. Logic
dictates that a big drug war lord obviously welcomes a
smaller drug war lord as a brother into its legal fold.
How come, that the best known figure of the heroin 
trade in the world and the most wanted men in the US have 
escaped criticism from any regional or international body?
The answer is simple, "Constructive Engagement". Instead
the regional authorities discreetly praise the Junta for
its superb diplomacy and what is more surprising is that
the United Nations Drug Control Program (UNDCP) official,
Giorgio Ciacomelli, visited Rangoon to pay respect to the
newly created drug gentleman. Besides known smaller drug
war lords such as Lin Ming-shing of the Eastern Shan State
Army, Yang Mao-liang, Peng Chia-sheng and Liu Co-shi of the
Myanmar Democratic Alliance Army, Pao Yu-chian, Li Tzu-hu
and Wei Hsuh-kang of the United Wa State Army and the like
who are all former rebel drug war lords have all become
leaders of the national races taking the honorable place in
the drafting of the National Convention.
Every Burmese knows who is pulling the strings behind
SLORC. Credit should also go to SLORC's general whose 
strict confidentiality and quick execution of meticulously 
planned out operation caught the US intelligence by
surprise. The very fact that New Year's Day was chosen for
the surrender with the US satellite and field agent
observations engrossed in their New Year celebrations. This
prevented early and strong US pressure to extradite Khun
Sa. It was only 5 days later when the US Embassy in Bangkok
open after the Christmas holidays that Assistant Secretary
of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Winston Lord,
issued a statement.
One could visualize whose brilliant strategy this 
could have been. The great helmsman has construed that the 
democracy movement led by Daw San Suu Kyi constitute a far
more serious threat than the ethnic groups fighting for
autonomy. If these two successfully combined would make his
days numbered, and so to implement this divide and rule
policy, he has ordered the initiation of the ceasefire
agreements with most of the freedom fighters and
concentrated his energy on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's democracy
These ceasefire agreements have served as a real 
catalyst in the rapid transformation of the relationship
between the Burmese Army and the guerrilla movements
engaged in the drug business. Partnership has replaced
armed confrontation: huge portions of territory in Shan
State, previously battle fields between guerrillas and
Rangoon have been turned into poppy fields to such an
extent that American and French satellite surveys have
detected an explosion of poppy cultivation, especially in
areas directly controlled by Rangoon.
The Thai border town of Mae Sri linked by a bridge to
the Burmese sister town of Tachilek boasts of several banks 
which regularly and systematically transferred huge amounts
of money to anonymous bank accounts in Singapore. Every
flight to Tachilek from Rangoon and Mandalay brought hordes
of Burmese military officers clad in multi, with parcels of
bank notes and walk across the bridge to the international
banking network.
Commissions, protection, transportation costs were all
handled by the Military Intelligence Service, now known as 
Directorate of Defense Services Intelligences. And this is
how SLORC is able to channel Burmese heroin revenue into
secret funds and is able to equip and expand its army three
fold and spend more that Usa billion with an official
currency. Singapore's efficient banking system graciously
accept all these accounts being herself a major supplier of
arms to SLORC.
Between private pockets of high ranking Burmese 
generals and their relatives on one hand and the defense 
spending on the other, it is practically very hard to
determine exactly where the narco-dollars ended e.g., the
private ownership of Air Mandalay based in Singapore.
(Myanmar Airways is also based in Singapore) the new
holding received loans from the French bank to operate
French-Italian made TAR aircraft. This particular
commercial operation categorized as a state secret
concealed the amount and the identities of the true 
shareholders. This lack of transparency in a country like 
Singapore, which claims to apply very strict anti-drug law
with death penalties on small time traffickers seems
paradoxical. The very fact that Singapore a staunch
supporter of "Constructive Engagement" and Burma's largest
investor have not uncovered a single case of money
laundering in the numerous financial and cooperation
operations, despite Far Eastern Economic Review, as far
back as 1992, demonstrated that the only substantial source 
of hard currency for SLORC was from the export of heroin,
raised our eyebrow. As Burmese, we would like to know what
portion of Burma's capital comes from the blood and sweat
of the forced labor. A question the proponents of
"Constructive Engagement" should ask themselves. 
Singapore, cooperating with the Burmese Embassy at 
Martin Drive, is sending back the Burmese dissidents to be 
persecuted (much publicized case in 1992) and giving their
sons and daughters to be married to the offsprings of the
Burmese drug war lords (highlighted in the Burmese media of
former drug kingpin Lo She Hangs' son to Nag Sol Hong of
Singapore Janseng Road) under the watchful eye of its
senior minister who has come out openly for SLORC against
Dow Jung San Suu Kyi have demonstrated their Kiasu spirit
of double standard.
It will be interesting to hear President Clinton's 
Burma policy, this coming November on his meeting with the
Thai leaders in Bangkok. Even though the State department
officials have been assuring the Burmese democracy movement
that the Clinton administration would not sacrifice
democracy and human rights at the alter of economic gain nor
drug menace, the Burmese people are quite aware of the US
investment in Burma under the pretext of the private sector
over which the US government have no control. Torn between
its own global moral responsibility of advocating human
rights and democracy in Third World countries and the
protection of American citizens from the alarming danger of
soaring illicit drug use and narcotic related violence at
home, the US dilemma is understandable.
The US Drug Enforcement Administration in their 
failure to understand in depth of the Burmese situation have
 been increasingly calling for softer approach to SLORC.
This include the reinstallation of the US ambassador to
Rangoon where full diplomatic relations would enable
cooperation with the Burmese junta for drug menace.
Republican Congressman Charles Rangel in his speech to the
House Committee on International relations and subcommittee
on Asia and the Pacific said: "Please extend the hand of
cooperation and not use human rights excuse to sever
relations that could cause the stoppage of hundreds of tons
of heroin." Coupled with this is the drastic switch of
Australia, Canada and the European Union to softer approach,
in spite of Nicholas being tortured to death, had caught
the US and the Burmese democracy movement off guard. This
means maintaining the status quos of the ASEAN's
"Constructive Engagement." Little or no hope for Burmese
democracy movement.