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Burma junta cracks down on drug tra

Burma junta cracks down on drug trafficking with India

By Bit Irom

THE ASIAN AGE (NEW DELHI), 26th Oct.1997.

Namphalong (Burma), Oct. 25: 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

However, two other Meitei smugglers in their forties, arrested with him,
were sentenced to 70 years imprisonment each. These men were arrested in
December 1995 and are now serving sentences 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 metric tones 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 released 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 seeds. The
smuggling of poppy seeds, among other things, has increased ever since
trade along the border town was closed due to arson in Namphalong

Freedom did not come easy to Rajesh. His trial was an extended one and
he was lodged at the Tamu township about 4 km from Moreh. Talking to the
Asian Age, about his experience in the lockup, Rajesh said: "While I was
in prison, three 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

"SLORC authorities only provided a bowl of rice per day to prisoners in
police custody in all Burmese police stations", 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 Kalaymyot.
There are many as Manipuris in Rangoon Jail at present". Three Manipuri
youths were recently released but their trucks were impounded by Burmese

The youths ran a teak business along the Indo-Burma border. Illegal
felling of teak is offence in Burma. SLORC authorities are just as
concerned about teak felling and smuggling as they are about drugs. 

As of now, while many who were arrested with him have either been
sentenced for life or have died unable to bear the hardships of prison
life, Rajesh wants to start life a fresh.