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Indo-Burma border news (r)
Junta cracks down on drug trafficking with India
Namphalong (Burma), Oct. 26: Thirty nine-year-old Khangebam
Rajesh has been lucky. Arrested by the Burmese police on March 11,
1996 at Namphalong for smuggling items used to manufacture drugs,
he was released recently after the military court in Burma found him
not guilty. However two other Meitei (Manipuri) smuggling in there
arrested with him, were sentenced to 70 year of imprisonment each.
These men were arrested in December 1995 and are now serving
sentence at Rangoon Jail. Burma's military junta, the State law and
Order Restoration Council, has initiated various measures to contain
the drug menace in the country following international pressure to curb
drug production and trafficking along the border.
Burma produced 250 Mt of heroin in 1996. Fifteen per cent of this
was exported to India through the border town of Moreh.
An SLORC official told the Asian Age, that Rajesh, who was
arrested on drug-related charges, was
released on Tuesday. He was handed over to Indian officials at the
Moreh Gate No. 2. Two others, Manu Nepali, 19, and Man Bahadur,
23, were also arrested with Rajesh and the fate of these two prisoners is
still unknown. According to the official, SLORC is making all efforts
to prevent smuggling as well as preparation of heroin from poppy
The smuggling of poppy seed, among other things, has increased
ever since trade along the border town was closed due to arson in
Namphalong market. Freedom did not come easy to Rajsh. His trial
was an extended one and he was lodged at the Tamu police station in
Burma. Tamu is a Burmese township about four kms from Moreh.
Talking to the Asian Age, about his experience in the lockup, Rajesh
said: "while I was in prison, there persons, including a woman
Majannu, arrested by the Burmese police on charges of drug
smuggling, died in custody.
" According to Rajesh, extreme torture and
malnutrition led to the death of these prisoners. "SLORC authorities
only provided a bowl of rice per day to persons in police custody in all
Burmese police station," he said. About 15 Indians arrested from
different places along the Indo-Burma border are now in different jails
in Burma at present. Rajesh, who is also fluent in Burmese, said: "Most
of those arrested are currently lodged in prisons in Rangoon, Mandalay,
Monywa and Kalemyo. There are as many as four Manipuris in Rangoon
Jail at present". Three Manipuri youths were recently released but their
trucks were impounded by Burmese authorities. The youths ran a teak
business along the Indo-Burma border. Illegal felling of teak is an
offence in Burma.
SLORC authorities are just as concerned about teak
felling and smuggling as they are about drugs. As of now, while many
that were arrested with him have either been sentenced for life or have
died unable to bear the rigours of prison life, Rajesh wants to start life
afresh. For Rajesh, a resident of Moreh, business is the only means of
livelihood like everyone else in the town. After his release, he intends
to set up his own business. He was however, not sure what trade he
would eventually opt for.
The Northeast Age