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The BurmaNet News: May 8, 1998
- Subject: The BurmaNet News: May 8, 1998
- From: strider@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Fri, 08 May 1998 09:13:00
------------------------ BurmaNet ------------------------
"Appropriate Information Technologies, Practical Strategies"
The BurmaNet News: May 8, 1998
COVERTACTION QUARTERLY: THE BURMA SINGAPORE AXIS: GLOBALIZING THE HEROIN TRADE
by Leslie Kean and Dennis Bernstein
This article was reprinted/adapted from CAQ (CovertAction Quarterly),
Number 64, Spring, 1998
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"Singapore's economic linkage with Burma is one of the most vital factors
for the survival of Burma's military regime," says Professor Mya Maung, a
Burmese economist based in Boston. This link, he continues, is also
central to "the expansion of the heroin trade."1 Singapore has achieved the
distinction of being the Burmese junta's number one business partner - both
largest trading partner and largest foreign investor. More than half these
investments, totaling upwards of $1.3 billion, are in partnership with
Burma's infamous heroin kingpin Lo Hsing Han who now controls a substantial
portion of the world's opium trade.2 The close political, economic and
military relationship between the two countries facilitates the weaving of
millions of narco-dollars into the legitimate world economy.
Singapore has become a major player in Asian commerce. According to Steven
Green, US Ambassador to Singapore, free market policies have "allowed this
small country to develop one of the world's most successful trading and
investment economies."3 Singapore also has a strong role in the powerful
132-member country World Trade Organization. Indeed, the tiny China Sea
island of three and a half million people is known far and wide as the blue
chip of the region - a financial trading base and a route for the vast sums
of money that flow in and out of Asia.4
If the brutal Burmese dictatorship's international pariah status is of any
concern to its more powerful partner, Singapore shows no sign of it.
Following the March 24 visit of Singapore's Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong to
Rangoon, a Singapore spokesperson proclaimed, "Singapore and Myanmar5
should continue to explore areas where they can complement each other."6 As
both countries continue to celebrate their "complementary" relationship,
the international community must take note of the powerful support this
relationship provides both to Burma's illegitimate regime and to its
booming billion dollar drug trade.
Drugs 'R' Us
The Burmese military dictatorship - known by the acronym SLORC for State
Law and Order Restoration Council until it changed its name to the State
Peace and Development Council (SPDC) last November - depends on the
resources of Burma's drug barons for its financial survival. Since it
seized power in 1988, opium production has doubled,7 equaling all legal
exports and making the country the world's biggest heroin supplier. Burma
now supplies the US with 60 percent of its heroin imports and has recently
become a major regional producer of methamphetamines. With 50 percent of
the economy unaccounted for, drug traffickers, businessmen and government
officials are able to integrate spectacular profits throughout Burma's
Both the Burmese generals and drug lords have been able to take advantage
of Singapore's liberal banking laws and money laundering opportunities. In
1991, for example, the SLORC laundered $400 million through a Singapore
bank which it used as a down payment for Chinese arms. Despite the large
sum, Burma's foreign exchange reserves registered no change either before
or after the sale.9 With no laws to prevent money laundering, Singapore is
widely reported to be a financial haven for Burma's elite, including its
two most notorious traffickers, Lo Hsing Han and Khun Sa (also known by his
Chinese name Chang Qifu).
SLORC cut a deal with Khun Sa for his "surrender" in early 1996, allowing
him protection and business opportunities in exchange for retirement from
the drug trade. Khun Sa now bills himself as "a commercial real estate
agent who also has a foot in the Burmese construction industry."10 Already
in control of a bus route into the northern poppy growing region where the
military is actively involved in the drug business,11 he is now investing
$250 million in a new highway between Rangoon and Mandalay, an SPDC cabinet
member confirmed.12 "The Burmese government says one thing but does
another," according to Banphot Piamdi, director of Thailand's Northern
Region's Narcotics Suppression Center. "It claims to have subdued Khun Sa's
group...However the fact is that the group under the supervision of...Khun
Sa's son has received permission from Rangoon to produce narcotics in the
areas along the Thai-Burmese border."13
Khun Sa's son is not the only trafficker reaping benefits in the Shan State
area which borders Thailand and China and serves as Burma's primary poppy
growing area. Field intelligence and ethnic militia sources consistently
report a pattern of Burmese military involvement with drug production in
these remote areas. Government troops offer protection to the heroin and
amphetamine refineries in the area in exchange for payoffs and gifts, such
as Toyota sedans, pistols and army uniforms. The only access to the
refineries is through permits issued by Burmese military intelligence -
without this, the heavily guarded areas surrounding the refineries are too
dangerous to approach. The military is also involved in protecting the
transport of narcotics throughout the region, which the authorities have
sealed off from the outside world.
"There are persistent and reliable reports that officials, particularly
army personnel posted in outlying areas, are involved in the drug
business," confirms the March 1998 US government narcotics report. "Army
personnel wield considerable political clout locally, and their involvement
in trafficking is a significant problem."14 Intelligence sources, working
for ethnic leaders combating both the drug trade and the military
dictatorship, report that the pattern of government involvement extends all
the way to the top. The central government in Rangoon demands funds on a
regular basis from regional commanders who, in turn, expect payoffs from
the rank and file. The soldiers get the money any way they can - through
smuggling, gambling or selling jade - with drugs being the most accessible
source of revenue in Shan State. The officers in the field also "tax"
refineries, drug transporters, and opium farmers.
At great risk, the intelligence sources - who go undercover to infiltrate
troops in the field -- collect painstakingly detailed data including
names, dates and places, such as these delivered in March 1998 from Shan
State: "On 10th Jan. 98, SPDC army no. 65 stationed at Mong Ton sent 40
troops to Nam Hkek village, Pon Pa Khem village tract, collected 0.16 kilo
of opium per household or [collected payment of] Baht 600. Then the troops
sold the collected opium to the drug business men at the rate of Baht 6000
for 1.6 kilos " Another report states: "Troops from SPDC Battalion nos. 277
& 65 stationed at Mong Ton are still protecting heroin refineries situated
at Hkai lon, Pay lon & Ho ya areas, Mong Ton township. Those who can pay
B.200,00 per month are allowed to run the heroin refineries." And: "On 3rd
of Jan. 98, Burma Army no. 99 collected opium tax in Lashio township. They
charged 0.32 kilo per household. They arrested and beat seriously those who
failed to give." 15
These sources also report that Ko Tat, Private 90900 from SPDC battalion
no. 525 stationed in Lin Kay, recently defected from the Burmese army and
said that his company had been giving protection to the opium fields around
Ho Mong. While the lower ranked officers struggle to meet their quotas in
the field, the highest levels of the government in the capital city strike
deals with Burma's two top traffickers, one of whom is the prosperous
partner of Singapore.
Lo Hsing Han: At Home in Singapore
With massive financial ties to Singapore, Lo Hsing Han is now one of
Burma's top investors. He, along with Khun Sa, the former "king of opium,"
is a major player in the Burmese economy.
In the early 1990s, Lo Hsing Han controlled the most heavily armed
drug-trafficking organization in Southeast Asia.16 He was arrested in 1973
and sentenced to death, but was freed under a general amnesty in 1980. Now,
like Khun Sa, he wears the public persona of a successful businessman in
Rangoon - where no one does business without close government cooperation.
Although he still oversees rural drug operations with the status of a
godfather, according to US narcotics officials, the notorious Lo currently
serves as an advisor on ethnic affairs to Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt, the military
intelligence chief and the junta's powerful "Secretary 1."17
Lo Hsing Han is the chair of Burma's biggest conglomerate, Asia World,
founded in 1992. His son, Steven Law, is managing director and also runs
three companies in Singapore which are "overseas branches" of Asia World.
Although Singapore is proud of its mandatory death penalty for small-time
narcotics smugglers and heroin addicts, both father and son travel freely
in and out of the friendly island nation. "The family money is offshore,"
said a high level US narcotics official. "The old man is a convicted drug
trafficker, so his kid is handling the financial activities."
In 1996, when Law married his Singaporean business partner in a lavish,
well-publicized Rangoon wedding, guests from Singapore were flown in on two
chartered planes. According to a high-level US government official familiar
with the situation, Law's wife Cecilia Ng operates an underground banking
system, and "is a contact for people in Burma to get their drug money into
Singapore, because she has a connection to the government." The official
said that she spends half her time in Rangoon, half in Singapore; when in
Rangoon, she is headquartered at Asia Lite, a subsidiary of Asia World.18
The husband-wife team are also the sole officers and shareholders of Asia
World subsidiary, Kokang Singapore Pte Ltd. Founded in Singapore in 1993
with $4.6 million, the company "engages in general trading activities in
goods/products of all kinds/descriptions."19
Singapore's ventures with Asia World include both government and private
investments. Kuok Singapore Ltd., a partner with Asia World in many
ventures, was Burma's largest single real estate investor as of late 1996,
with over $650 million invested.20 Other Singaporean companies are
mentioned in Asia World's company reports. Sinmardev, another major
Singaporean project linked to Lo's company, is a $207 million industrial
park and port on the outskirts of Rangoon, which broke ground in 1997.
Singaporean entrepreneur Albert Hong, head of Sinmardev, described the
project as the largest foreign investment in Burma outside the energy
field. The Singaporean consortium leads the joint venture along with the
Burmese junta, Lo's Asia World, and a slew of international shareholders.21
Kuok Singapore Ltd., Lo Hsing Han's Asia World, and the Burmese junta are
also partners in the luxury Traders Hotel. The hotel's November 1996
opening ceremony was attended by the Singapore ambassador, the president of
Kuok Singapore, and briefly by Lo Hsing Han himself. The presiding Burmese
minister publicly thanked Steven Law and the government of Singapore
"without whose support and encouragement there would be very few
Singaporean businessmen in our country."22
While government and business connections in Burma and Singapore have
boosted Asia World's prospects, other factors have contributed to the
company's extraordinary growth. In the last six years, Asia World has
expanded from a modest trading company to become Burma's largest and
fastest-growing private sector enterprise with interests in trading,
manufacturing, property, industrial investment, development, construction,
transportation, import and distribution, and infrastructure. "How is it
that a company that has a humble beginning trading beans and pulses is
suddenly involved in $200 million projects?" a US government official said,
requesting anonymity. "Where did all that start-up capital come from?"
The US government ventured a guess in 1996: it denied Asia World's CEO
Steven Law a visa to the US "on suspicion of drug trafficking."23 Asia
World's operations now include a deepwater port in Rangoon, the Leo Express
bus line into Northern Burma, and a $33 million toll highway from the heart
of Burma's poppy-growing region to the China border.24 On December 20, the
conglomerate opened a wharf with freight handling, storage, and a customs
yard for ships carrying up to 15,000 tons.25 "If you're in the dope
business, these are the types of things that you've got to have to be able
to move your product," said a high level US narcotics official. "They have
set up institutions to facilitate the movement of drugs. And in all
probability, they are using laundered drug proceeds, or funds generated
from investments of drug trafficking proceeds, to build this
infrastructure," he added.
The activities of Lo's company Asia World have triggered an international
narcotics investigation lead by Washington. US investigators allege that
Asia World's relationship to Singapore paves the way for the narcotics
trade to be woven into all legitimate investments between the two
countries. "Singapore's investments in Burma are opening doors for the drug
traffickers, giving them access to banks and financial systems," said one
government official familiar with the situation.
One Stop Shopping: Intelligence to Repression
The Burmese junta's control of its impoverished population through crude
methods such as torture, forced labor, and mass killings leaves it open to
international condemnation. In contrast, Singapore takes a more
sophisticated approach to repression, both at home and abroad. While the
island-nation's citizens have material benefits and the appearance of rule
of law, they live in fear of an Orwellian government that closely monitors
every aspect of their lives.26 The ruling party often sues those who dare
to oppose it on trumped up defamation charges, forcing many into bankruptcy
The FBI is investigating complaints by US citizens of harassment by
Singapore's Internal Security Department (ISD). One California academic, a
widely respected specialist on Southeast Asian affairs who asked not to be
identified, says ISD agents broke into his home because he was working to
bring leading Singaporean opposition figure Tang Liang Hong to an American
university. The operatives tore out his door handle to get in, then
searched his computer and desk. A week later, an Asian man, waiting in a
tree, photographed and videotaped the academic while he walked in the park.
After temporarily blinding the academic with his bright flash, the man
jumped from the tree and made a getaway in his car. Tang - who is facing a
$4.5 million defamation lawsuit by Singaporean senior ministers - was not
surprised by the burglary. "I've been followed everywhere, whether I was in
Hong Kong, Malaysia, Australia or in London," he said in a phone interview
Singapore has been more than willing to share its expertise in intelligence
with its Burmese counterparts. The Singapore-Myanmar Ministerial-Level Work
Committee was set up in 1993 in Rangoon to "forge mutual benefits in
investment, trade and economic sectors." The committee includes
intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt, other top Burmese ministers, and
high-level Singaporean officials. At the December 23 meeting, Khin Nyunt
urged his ministers to give priority to projects arranged by the
Singaporean Government. "Pilot projects are being implemented to transfer
know how to Myanmar," said Khin Nyunt in his address.29
One such project is a state-of-the-art cyber-war center in Rangoon. Burma's
military leaders can now intercept a range of incoming communications -
including telephone calls, faxes, emails and computer data transmissions -
from 20 other countries.30
The high-tech cyber-war center was built by Singapore Technologies, the
city-state's largest industrial and technology conglomerate, comprising
more than 100 companies.31 This government-owned company also provides
on-site training at Burma's Defense Ministry complex, and reportedly passes
on its "sophisticated capability" to hundreds of Burmese "secret police" at
an institution inside Singapore.32
Burma has no external enemies, but the ruling junta goes to extremes to
terrorize the population through its elaborate intelligence network.
Intelligence officials have already used their newly-acquired talents from
the cyber-war center to arrest pro-democracy activists,33 and it is well
known that Burma's feared military intelligence often tortures its victims
during lengthy interrogations.34
Singaporean companies have also helped suppress dissent in Burma by
supplying the military with arms to use against its own people. The first
shipment of guns and ammunition was delivered on October 6, 1988.35
Throughout the month, hundreds of boxes of mortars, ammunition, and other
supplies marked "Allied Ordnance, Singapore" were unloaded from vessels in
Rangoon. Allied Ordnance is a subsidiary of Chartered Industries of
Singapore, the arms branch of Singapore Technologies - the same
government-owned company which built the cyber-war center. The shipments
also included rockets made by Chartered Industries of Singapore under
license from a Swedish company and sold in violation of an agreement with
Sweden requiring authorization for re-exports.36
These shipments from Singapore arrived only weeks after the 1988 military
takeover in Rangoon, in which the new leaders of the SLORC massacred
hundreds of peaceful, pro-democracy demonstrators in the street. These
killings followed another wave of government massacres earlier that summer,
when longtime dictator Ne Win struggled to keep power in the face of
nationwide strikes and demonstrations for democracy. He eventually stepped
down but, operating behind the scenes, installed the puppet SLORC. As the
killings continued, thousands of civilians fled the country fearing for
their lives. When numerous countries responded by suspending aid and
Burma's traditional suppliers cut shipments, the SLORC became desperate.
Singapore was the first country to come to its rescue.
Singapore companies have continued to supply Burma's military, sometimes
acting as middlemen for arms from other countries. In 1989, Israel and
Belgium delivered grenade launchers and anti-tank guns via Singapore.37 In
1992, Singapore violated the European Commission arms embargo on the
Burmese regime by acting as a broker and arranging for a $1.5 million
shipment of mortars from Portugal.38
"It is highly unlikely that any of these shipments to Burma could have been
made without the knowledge and support of the Singapore Government," wrote
William Ashton in Jane's Intelligence Review. "By assisting with weapons
sales, defense technology transfers, military training and intelligence
cooperation, Singapore has been able to win a sympathetic hearing at the
very heart of Burma's official councils." 39
Last November, Singapore deployed its diplomatic arsenal to defend Rangoon
at the UN. Singaporean UN representatives made an effort to water down the
General Assembly resolution which castigated the Burmese government for its
harsh treatment of pro-democracy activists, widespread human rights
violations, and nullification of free and fair elections that had voted it
out of power. In an "urgent" letter to the Swedish mission, which was
drafting the resolution, Singapore representative Bilahari Kausikan cited
"progress" in Burma and said that "the majority of your co-sponsors have
little or no substantive interests in Myanmar. ...Our position is
different. We have concrete and immediate stakes."40
Objecting to parts of the resolution and attempting to soften the language,
Singapore's representative circulated the letter to key members of the UN's
Third Committee on Human Rights "The driving force was definitely business
connections," according to Dr. Thaung Htun, Representative for UN Affairs
of Burma's government-in-exile. "Singapore is defending its investments at
the diplomatic level, using its efforts at the UN level to promote its
The protection of Singapore's "concrete and immediate stakes" is essential
to the ruling party's success in maintaining power and the basis of its
support for Burma, said Case Western Reserve University economist
Christopher Lingle. "Singapore depends heavily upon its symbiotic
relationship with crony capitalists and upon accommodating a high enough
rate of return to keep the citizenry in line. Therefore its very survival
is tied up with business and government investments."42
William Ashton, writing in Jane's Intelligence Review, suggested an
additional incentive for Singapore's alliance with Burma. As Rangoon's
major regional backer and strategic ally, China has provided much of the
weaponry, training, and financial assistance for the junta. China's
expanding commercial and strategic interests in the Asia-Pacific region,
coupled with its alliance with neighboring Burma, is a source of great
concern in Singapore. The desire to keep Burma from becoming Beijing's
stalking horse in the region may provide another motivation for Singapore's
wooing of Rangoon.43
Turning a Blind Eye
The Singapore government has consistently disregarded the gross human
rights violations perpetrated by its allies in Burma. The UN Special
Rapporteur, appointed to report to the United Nations on the situation in
Burma, has been barred entry into Burma since 1995.44 The new US State
Department Country report on Burma for 1997 states that its "longstanding
severe repression of human rights continued during the year. Citizens
continued to live subject at any time and without appeal to the arbitrary
and sometimes brutal dictates of the military dictatorship." 45 Amnesty
International reports that there are well over 1,200 political prisoners
languishing in Burmese dungeons where torture is commonplace.46
Singapore has issued no urgent letters about a recent report by Danish
Doctors for Human Rights which noted that "sixty-six percent of [the over
120,000] refugees from Burma now living in Thailand have been tortured" and
subjected to "forced labor, deportation, pillaging, destruction of
villages, and various forms of torture and rape." The doctors reported
that refugees witnessed the junta's military forces murder members of their
Singaporean leaders also seem unconcerned about the fact that the Burmese
government shut down almost all of Burma's colleges and universities
following student protests in December of 1996 and imprisoned hundreds of
students.48 At a February ceremony of the Singapore Association in Myanmar,
the Ambassador to Singapore presented a large check to Gen. Khin Nyunt -
who is also Chairman of the government Education Committee - for the
"Myanmar education development fund." While depriving young Burmese of
higher education, the junta's "Secretary 1" Khin Nyunt responded that
"Uplifting the educational standards of our people is one of the social
objectives of our Government." He then went on at length to extol the
"firm foundation of growing economic and trade ties" between Singapore and
The Burmese government has also kept computers and communication technology
away from students and others in opposition to the regime. All computers,
software, email services and other telecommunication devices - which
hardly anyone can afford anyway - must be licensed, but licenses are almost
impossible to obtain.50 Yet Singapore has made the best computer technology
available to the ruling elite and their business partners. Singapore
Telecom, the largest company in Asia outside of Japan, was the first to
provide Burmese businesses and government offices with the ability to set
up inter-and intra-corporate communications in more than 90 countries.51
Singapore's concerns are dramatically different from those of countries
sharing a border with Burma. Thailand has to deal with the deadly narcotics
trade and an overwhelming number of refugees arriving on a daily basis.
Banphot Piamdi, the Thai counter-narcotics official, believes Thailand made
a big mistake when it voted for Burma's entry into the Association of
Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), given Burma's lack of cooperation in
fighting drugs.52 Not surprisingly, the Singapore government lobbied hard
for Burma's 1997 acceptance into the powerful regional trade alliance.
Ironically, Burma's inclusion in ASEAN may force member nations, including
Singapore, to address the havoc that their newest ally is imposing on the
region - especially since Burma provides approximately 90 percent of the
total production of Southeast Asian opium.53 China and India, Burma's other
neighbors, now face severe AIDS epidemics related to increased heroin use
in their bordering provinces. Most of the heroin exported from Burma to the
West passes through China's Yunnan province, which now has more than half a
million addicts.54 And even Singapore - whose heroin supply comes mostly
from Burma - had a 41 percent rise in HIV cases in 1997.55
As we head into the "Asian century," Singapore has become Washington's
forward partner in the unfolding era of East-West trade. Ambassador Green
called the country "a major entry port and a natural gateway to Asia for
American firms." US companies exported $16 billion worth of goods to
Singapore in 1996 and more than 1,300 US firms now operate in the
country.56 Singapore's strategic and economic importance to the US cannot
be overstated. The two countries just reached an agreement allowing the US
Navy to use a Singapore base even though the deal violates ASEAN's 1997
nuclear-weapons-free zone agreement.57
The US has condemned the Burmese junta's record of human rights abuses and
support for the drug trade, but has turned a blind eye when it comes to
Singapore's dealings with the regime. Although President Clinton imposed
economic sanctions on Burma partly for it's role in providing pure and
cheap heroin to America's youth, he has not commented on Singapore's
willingness to play ball with the world's biggest heroin traffickers.
Ambassador Green told Congress last year that the US "has an important role
in working with the Singapore government to deal with illegal drug and
weapons proliferation issues,"58 but most US officials have remained silent
about Singapore's investments with Lo Hsing Han and Burma's
narco-dictatorship. It's unlikely Clinton made any mention of this issue
last fall while golfing with Singaporean Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong
during the APEC summit in Vancouver.
Unless the financial crisis in Asia limits profits, Singapore will probably
continue to expand its investments in Burma. "Our two economies are
complementary and although we can derive satisfaction from the progress
made, I believe that there still remains a great potential that is yet to
be exploited," said the junta's Gen. Khin Nyunt last February.59 Aided by
Singapore's support, Burma's thriving heroin trade has plagued the majority
of countries around the globe. While these countries blithely pour money
into drug-connected companies based in Burma and thereby help them to
expand into foreign markets, an abundance of the world's finest heroin
continues to plague their citizens. At the same time, the line between
legitimate and illegitimate investments grows dimmer in the global economy.
[end of article, sidebar follows]
While Singapore and China are Burma's closest allies, other countries and
mult-national corporations provide a big shield for Burma's narcotics
trade. In 1997 alone, the military regime approved 60 new projects worth
$1.27 billion, bringing total foreign investment since the regime came to
power to 299 projects worth $6.87 billion. Following Singapore in the
foreign investment lineup are Britain, Thailand and Malaysia, in that
order.60 The US and France follow close behind.61
Unocal - which no longer considers itself a US company but calls itself a
"global energy company"62 - and the French oil giant Total have joined
forces with the Burmese regime and it's state oil company Myanma Oil and
Gas Enterprises (MOGE) in building the $1.2 billion Yadhana gas pipeline
through Burma into Thailand. Fourteen Burmese plaintiffs filed an
unprecedented federal lawsuit in Los Angeles, holding Unocal and Total
accountable for the torture, rape, murder, forced labor and forced
relocations of people living on the pipeline route.
Unocal also faces allegations of fueling the heroin trade though its
relationship to the government-owned MOGE which is "the main channel for
laundering the revenues of heroin produced and exported under the control
of the Burmese army" according to a sworn affidavit for the federal suit.63
Randy Renick, an attorney for the lawsuit, says this affidavit "provides
irrefutable evidence that Unocal is in partnership with criminal drug
dealers who are making profits off the backs of the indigenous people of
In January, one Israeli and two British companies signed a contract with
MOGE for oil exploration and production, the largest investment in Burma so
far this year. The US oil company Atlantic Richfield (Arco) and oil firms
from Indonesia and Malaysia have also entered into agreements with MOGE.65
Back in Washington, the firm of Jefferson Waterman International is busy
campaigning against US sanctions on Burma and giving a face lift to the
Burmese government for $400,000 a year plus expenses.66 Ironically, Ann B.
Wrobleski, president of the firm, was the architect of Nancy Reagan's "Just
Say No" campaign. As the Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau for
International Narcotics Matters from 1986 to 1989, she advocated the denial
of US anti-narcotics aid to the junta in 1989 until a government supported
by the people was in power.67
In a 1989 statement to the House of Representatives Task Force on Narcotics
Control, Wrobleski said that "prospects are for expanded cultivation of
what is already the world's largest supply of illicit opium" in Burma.68
Her State Department report the same year predicted accurately that Burma's
opium production would continue to increase and that "the military regime
is unlikely to resume any significant anti-narcotics activity for the near
Yet Wrobleski's crusade against drugs seems to have made an about-face
since she moved to Jefferson Waterman International. Her newsletter
"Myanmar Monitor," praises the military regime for making great progress in
combating drugs - information which runs contrary to the current Narcotics
Strategy Control Report from her old department and the statements of
Madeleine Albright and President Clinton. "Western countries are turning a
blind eye to Myanmar's narcotics control efforts" proclaims a January
issue,70 while other headlines read "SPDC makes headway in Narcotics
control" and "Myanmar: serious about conquering drug trade."71
Services provided by Jefferson Waterman also include "strategic counsel"
and "up-to-the-minute intelligence on how Washington views the foreign
client," according to company information. Both the CEO of Jefferson
Waterman International, Charles E. Waterman, and the Senior Vice-President,
Samuel H. Wyman, were formerly officers for the CIA - Wyman for 31 years.72
A second firm, Bain and Associates is receiving $21,500 per month plus
expenses from the Burmese construction company Zay Kabar - which has strong
links to the highest levels of Burma's government - to improve the image of
the regime in the media.73 With "exclusive permission from the Myanmar
government," Bain sponsored an invitation-only media tour to Burma from
February 24 - 27. Bain representative Laura Livingston suggested to
participants that they write about the fact that "through mass drug
burnings, strong anti-drug policies and innovative crop-substitution
programs, the government is committed to wiping out the scourge of opium
and drugs in present-day Myanmar."74 Livingston said that response from
journalists to her invitation was so enthusiastic that Bain doubled the
number of participants and had to turn others away. As a result, more tours
are being planned.75
1 Leslie Kean is co-author of Burma's Revolution of the Spirit: The
Struggle for Democratic Freedom and Dignity and director of the Burma
Dennis Bernstein, associate editor at Pacific News Service, is producer of
KPFA radio's "Flashpoints."
1 Interview, Sept. 8, 1997. Professor Mya Maung is the author of The Burma
Road to Poverty (Praeger, 1991); Totalitarianism in Burma: Prospects for
Economic Development (Paragon House, 1992); The Burma Road to Capitalism:
Growth versus Democracy (Praeger, 1998).
2 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, 1997, Bureau for
International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, U.S. Department of
State, Washington, DC, March 1998 [hereinafter INCSR].
3 Steven J. Green, Confirmation Statement, US Senate Committee on Foreign
Relations, Oct. 21, 1997.
4 Interview with Doug Henwood (ed.), Left Business Observer, Feb. 2, 1998.
5 The military junta changed Burma's name to "Myanmar" without consulting
the citizens of the country. The leaders of Burma's elected democratic
party - who were not allowed to take office despite an overwhelming victory
in 1990 - do not recognize the name change.
6 "S'Pore, Myanmar ease VIP travel," The Straits Times, March 25, 1998.
7 INCSR, op. cit.
8 "Country Commercial Guide: Burma," American Embassy, Rangoon, July, 1996;
and Dennis Bernstein and Leslie Kean, "People of the Opiate: Burma's
Dictatorship of Drugs," The Nation, Dec.16, 1996 (US weekly, not to be
confused with the Bangkok daily).
9 Andrew Selth, "Burma's Defence Expenditure and Arms Industries," Working
Paper No. 309, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, August 1997, p.8. The
source of the $400 million has not been documented, but it is widely
speculated that this was drug money since the SLORC did not have access to
such large sums from other sources.
10 Raoul Kirschbichler, "Interview with Khun Sa," Austrian Daily, July 30,
11 "Khun Sa given bus concession," Bangkok Post, May 21, 1996. Although
Khun Sa has been indicted in the US, the generals refused a US offer of $2
million to extradite him for trial. Khun Sa has threatened to reveal
information about the involvement of high-ranking officials in the drug
trade if they hand him over (Bertil Lintner, "High Time in the Golden
Triangle," Tokyo Journal, April 17, 1996).
12 INCSR, op. cit.
13 "Thailand flays Burma for not cooperating in drug fight," Bangkok Siam
Rath, Jan. 6, 1998 (translated from Thai).
14 INCSR, op. cit.
15 This article is partly based on a series of interviews with sources both
permanently and temporarily in the United States who must remain anonymous.
Interviews were conducted by phone and in person during 1997 and 1998.
16Bertil Lintner, "The Volatile Yunnan Frontier," Jane's Intelligence
Review, v. 6, n. 2, Feb. 1, 1994, p. 84.
17Anthony Davis and Bruce Hawke, "Business is Blooming," Asiaweek, Jan. 23,
18 Meeting with the authors in Washington, DC in December, 1997. The
government official wished to remain anonymous.
19 Registry of Companies and Businesses, Singapore, for Kokang Singapore
Pte. Ltd. Nov. 9, 1996. The family's operations have begun to penetrate US
borders. Kokang Import and Export, a subsidiary of Asia World, was
registered in Scottsdale, Arizona in 1993 and in Diamond Bar, California in
1994. The President of the Scottsdale branch of Kokang was Daisy Lo,
daughter of Lo Hsing Han. It is not known where the company now operates
in the US, if at all.
20 "Kuok group invests another 128 million dollars in Burma," AFP, Sept.
21 "S'pore-led consortium in $282m Myanmar deal," The Straits Times, June
22"Traders Hotel holds soft opening to start operation with 90 rooms," The
New Light of Myanmar, Nov. 15, 1996.
23 "Visa Bar," Far Eastern Economic Review, Sept. 5, 1996; interview by
the authors with a State Department official who wished not to be named,
24 Asia World Company Limited, Company Profile, 1996.
25 SPDC Information Sheet No. A.0255(I), Dec. 21, 1997.
26 The Singapore government's oversight of its citizens reaches down to
the most basic levels of daily life. In October, the government launched a
"toilet alert," during which Singaporeans were asked to call the "clean
public toilets hotline" to identify Singapore's model toilets and vote for
their top five favorites. (South China Morning Post, Oct. 22, 1997).
27 "Singapore / J B Jeyaretnam - the use of defamation suits for political
purposes," Amnesty International, Oct. 15, 1997. The report states that
Singapore's leaders are systematically "resorting to defamation suits as a
politically-motivated tactic to silence critical views and curb opposition
28 Phone interview on Nov. 2, 1997, from Melbourne, Australia where Tang is
29 "Myanmar-Singapore Ministerial-Level Work Committee helps develop
Myanmar's economic and technical sectors," The New Light of Myanmar, Dec.
30 Robert Karniol, "Myanmar spy centre can listen to sat-phones," Jane's
Defence Weekly, Sept. 17, 1997.
31 The CEO and president of the Board of Directors is Ms. Ho Chim, wife of
Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (son of retired Senior Minister Lee
32 William Ashton, "Burma receives advances from its silent suitors in
Singapore," Jane's Intelligence Review, v. 10, n. 3, March 1, 1998.
33 Karniol, op.cit.
34 Andrew Selth, "Burma's Intelligence Apparatus," Working Paper No. 308,
Strategic and Defense Studies Centre, Australian National University, p.26;
Amnesty International, Myanmar: In the National Interest, 1990.
35 Bertil Lintner, "Myanmar's Chinese connection," Jane's International
Defense Review, v. 27, n. 11, Nov. 1, 1994, p. 23.
36 Ashton, op. cit.
38 Lintner, "Myanmar's Chinese connection," op. cit.
39 Ashton, op. cit.
40 Letter from Bilahari Kausikan, Permanent Representative of the Republic
of Singapore to the United Nations, to H.E. Mr. Hans Dahlgren, Permanent
Representative of Sweden to the UN, Nov. 21, 1997, marked "Urgent".
41 Interview with Dr. Thaung Htun, National Coalition Government of the
Union of Burma (NCGUB) Representative for UN Affairs, on Dec. 8, 1997.
42 Email interview on Dec. 13, 1997. Lingle, who used to teach at the
National University of Singapore, is the author of The Rise and Decline of
the Asian Century and Singapore's Authoritarian Capitalism.
43 Ashton, op. cit.
44 Statement made by Judge Rajsoomer Lallah, Special Rapporteur of the
Commission on Human Rights to the Fifty-Third Session of the Commission on
Human Rights, UN, April 9, 1997.
45 "Burma Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1997," U.S.
Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Jan. 30,
46 "Myanmar: A challenge for the international community," Amnesty
International report, Oct. 20, 1997; Win Naing OO, Cries From Insein: A
report on conditions for political prisoners in Burma's infamous Insein
prison, (Bangkok: ABSDF, July 1996).
47 "Danish group says refugees were tortured," AFP, Bangkok Post, Jan. 24,
48 "Students do exams to enter closed Myanmar colleges," Reuters, March 4,
1998; Statement from the All Burma Federation of Students' Union, Rangoon,
Feb. 26, 1998.
49 "Singapore association in Myanmar donates K one million to Myanmar
education development fund," The New Light of Myanmar, Feb. 23, 1998.
50 "Burma Country Report," op. cit.
51 "Myanmar establishes first overseas data links via Singapore," news
release, Singapore Telecom, April 15, 1997.
52 "Thailand flays Burma...," op. cit.
53 INCSR, op. cit.
54 "Thais hoping regional bloc can convince Burma to stop drug flow," AP,
Jan. 15, 1998 (translation).
55 "TV series brings home AIDS message," South China Morning Post, Jan. 5,
56 Green, op. cit.
57 Brendan Pereira, "KL paper raps S'pore move to allow US use of new
Changi base," Straits Times, Feb. 1, 1998.
58 Green, op. cit.
59 "Singapore association in Myanmar..." op. cit.
60 "Myanmar approves $1.27 billion investment in 1997," Reuters, Jan. 8,
1998. "Myanmar approves $6.87 billion investment since 1988," Reuters,
March 17, 1998.
61 Ted Bardacke, "US companies rush to beat sanctions against Burma,"
Financial Times, April 25, 1997.
62 "Unocal becomes a company without a nation," Business Ethics, vol.12,
no.1, Jan./Feb. 1998.
63 Declaration of Francois Casanier, associate researcher with the
Geopolitical Drugwatch, Paris, filed as an affidavit with the U.S. District
Court in Los Angeles on April 7, 1997, in support of the suit against Unocal.
64 Interview, April 1997.
65 "British, Israeli companies to explore oil in Myanmar," Xinhua News,
Jan. 31, 1998; Free Burma - No Petro-dollars for SLORC, a project of
International Rivers Network, Berkeley, CA; and "Rangoon signs oil gas
deals," BurmaNews Network (BNN), Oct. 16, 1996.
66 Jefferson Waterman International Retainer Agreement, between Myanmar
Resources Development Ltd. and JWI,, filed under the Foreign Agents
Registration Act, U.S. Department of Justice, Feb. 13, 1997
67 R. Jeffrey Smith, "Burma's Image Problem is a Moneymaker for U.S.
lobbyists," Washington Post, Feb. 24, 1998.
68 Statement by Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics Matters
Ann. B. Wrobleski before the House of Representatives Task Force on
Narcotics Control, March 15, 1989.
69 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, Burma, 1989, pp. 89, 182.
70 "A view towards 1998," Myanmar Monitor, distributed by Jefferson
Waterman International, Vol. 26, Jan. 5, 1998.
71 Myanmar Monitor, op. cit.; "Myanmar serious about conquering drug
trade," Vol. 16, Oct. 1997
72 Jefferson Waterman International, information packet.
73 Registration Statement, filed under the Foreign Agents Registration Act,
U.S. Department of Justice, Sept. 3, 1997.
74 Letter from Laura Livingston, Bain and Associates, Inc. to Gary
Thatcher, Chicago Tribune, Jan. 13, 1998.
75 Conversation with Laura Livingston, Bain and Associates.