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Bkk Post - Don't let drug alarm clo

Subject: Bkk Post - Don't let drug alarm close the border, says Kachadpai

Bangkok post - July 28, 1999.
Don't let drug alarm close the border, says Kachadpai
NSC chief calls for proof of trafficking

Yuwadee Tunyasiri and Wasana Nanuam

Thailand cannot overlook the impact on trade and other "normal" relations
with Burma from the closure of border passes to halt the inflow of
narcotics, the secretary-general of the National Security Council said
yesterday. Closing the border without proof of drug-smuggling could not
promote the policy of strengthening economic ties, said Kachadpai

Trade was a way to eliminate distrust and bring Thailand closer to its
neighbours, Mr Kachadpai said.

The army has proposed closing two border checkpoints in Chiang Mai at Kiew
Pha Wok in Chiang Dao district and Ban San Ton Du in Mae-Ai district, to
curb drug-trafficking.

The passes lead to areas controlled by the United Wa State Army, regarded as
the biggest drug producer in the Golden Triangle, according to Gen Surayud
Chulanont, the army chief.

Gen Surayud has questioned the benefit of keeping the Ban San Ton Du pass
open, although bilateral trade via this channel has generated 66 million
baht a year for Thailand.

Gen Surayud said the UWSA had used the money from drug trade to buy
construction materials from Thailand to build a dam and other infrastructure
in its territory, while Thais were being turned into drug addicts.

Around 6,000 Thai workers are reportedly employed as construction workers by
the UWSA.

The army chief admitted the Interior Ministry and National Security Council
would have the final say on whether the checkpoints should be closed.

Interior Minister Sanan Kachornprasart said the closure could affect local
border trade.

Mr Kachadpai said while little was known about the volume and value of drugs
smuggled from Burma, such problems should not be allowed to disrupt legal

Trading must continue and if border fighting erupted or evidence of drug
smuggling was found, the provincial administration had full power to close
the border passes, he said.

Mr Kachadpai said security agencies needed a thorough study before deciding
if the border should be closed.

The military has stepped up its campaign against drugs by deploying more
troops along the border, while seeking Burma's co-operation in destroying
production sources and educating border villagers on the dangers of
narcotics, Mr Kachadpai said.

Burma has been fighting its own drug problems, he said, and the country
destroyed large volumes of drugs annually and promoted crop substitution