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THE MEKONG REGION DRUGS KEEP BURMES
- Subject: THE MEKONG REGION DRUGS KEEP BURMES
- From: moe@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Tue, 21 Oct 1997 16:26:00
Julien Moe and his homepage www.users.interport.net\~moe
Wednesday October 22 1997 [south china morning post]
The Mekong Region
Drugs keep junta
afloat as traffickers
BURMA by William Barnes
The Burmese junta repeatedly claims it is taking
steps to stem the massive outflow of heroin and
opium from its borders.
Yet in recent years the country has been enjoying
much greater profits from drug sales than ever
before, according to a recent report by the United
States Embassy in Rangoon.
The document states that behind the rhetoric of the
State Law and Order Restoration Council there
appears to be a willingness to do deals with known
or suspected narcotics traffickers. These include
former drug warlord Khun Sa who surrendered
over New Year in 1996 and is now said to be
engaged in transport and gems in the capital.
"Reports suggest, however, that he had his Mong
Tai Army colleagues continue to be involved in the
narcotics trade," said this year's Foreign Economic
The military regime cut cease-fire deals with
notorious ethnic drug dealers such as the Wa hill
tribe and the Kokang Chinese community in the late
1980s and early 1990s.
Recently the junta effectively encouraged traffickers
to keep their ill-gotten gains in Burma when they
stopped confiscating bank deposits that could not
be shown to have been legally earned.
"During the mid-1990s there was abundant
anecdotal evidence . . . that a growing proportion
of Burma's narcotics export receipts were staying
home rather than being kept abroad," the document
"Diverse businesses affiliated with these
organisations began to flourish openly in Rangoon,
presumably financed by proceeds from illicit
trafficking in narcotics, gems and timber."
Narcotics remain Burma's most valuable export
with its estimated potential production value at the
border rising from US$500 million (HK$3.8 billion)
in 1994, to US$850 million in 1995 and US$1.2
billion a year in 1996.
These figures do not include the extremely lucrative
rise of amphetamine exports in the 1990s. Thus
drug prices have also risen dramatically for Western
addicts buying, say, on a New York street.
By contrast remittances from Burmese abroad, an
important source of foreign exchange, were
US$352 million in 1996.
Profits from the drug trade have helped fuel a
spending boom in Rangoon where luxury hotels and
traffic jams have appeared even though the junta's
attempt to kick-start the real economy seems to
have largely failed.
The traffickers are now evidently prospering in a
country regarded as an international pariah and
where military meddling has cramped the growth of
"In Rangoon some Burmese business people . . .
complained of the increasing difficulty of competing
with firms affiliated and allegedly funded by
narcotics-cultivating and exporting organisations,"
the report said.
"Some of Burma's private banks, legal since 1992,
appear to be affiliated with these organisations."