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US raps ``impunity'' of Myanmar dru

Subject: US raps ``impunity'' of Myanmar drug lords 

INTERVIEW-US raps ``impunity'' of Myanmar drug lords
07:53 a.m. Nov 19, 1998 Eastern
By David Brunnstrom

BANGKOK, Nov 19 (Reuters) - A senior U.S. narcotics official on Thursday
criticised the climate of impunity which he said allowed big narcotics
traffickers to live free in military-ruled Myanmar.

``We can't allow people to have impunity anywhere,'' Jonathan Winer,
Washington's deputy assistant secretary of state for international narcotics
and law enforcement, told Reuters.

``One of the problems with Burma is there has been a lot of impunity in

Winer said he could not understand why big drug lords like Khun Sa, who has
been indicted for heroin trafficking in the United States, and Lo Hsing-han
were living free in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.

``What are they doing, wandering around, being left alone after moving all
the dope that they've moved?'' he said.

``If we can get the people who are growing dope and moving it out of Burma;
information on their front companies and financial interests; seize their
assets and indict them in the States or some other country; imprison some of
their network and shut that network down, it would be good for us, our
communities and the region.''

The Myanmar part of Southeast Asia's ``Golden Triangle'' opium growing
region is reckoned to be the world's largest source of heroin, output of
which is controlled by ethnic Chinese drug lords.

Both Khun Sa, long considered the king of the Golden Triangle drug lords,
and Lo Hsing-han are widely believed to be living in the Myanmar capital
Yangon under the protection of the military government.

Asked whether he thought elements of the Myanmar government were involved in
the drug trade, Winer replied:

``Certainly there is a lot of reason to believe that drug corruption has
been a recurrent problem in Burma.''

Winer was attending a conference on a U.S.-Thai initiative to set up an
academy for regional law enforcement officials aimed principally at
encouraging international cooperation in combatting the drug trade.

He said Myanmar was not part of the conference as U.S. sanctions prohibited
assistance to the government there and also because past programmes had not
proved successful.

``In the case of Burma, you've got a situation that any number of people
have tried to work with the Burmese against drugs with very little
success,'' he said. ``We have not found them to be reliable partners.''

The United States is also barred from assisting law enforcement efforts in
Cambodia, a country identified by narcotics agents as a transit point for
heroin from Myanmar.

Winer said even if this was not the case, he did not think using U.S. money
for law enforcement training in Cambodia would be an effective use of

``Isn't the money better spent training countries that are in better shape
and have more stability?'' he said.

``When you have a government that has the political will to work with other
governments, everything is possible.

``When you have governments that aren't capable of working with other
governments nothing is possible. For us right now with Burma and Cambodia
nothing is possible.''