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Burma, Laos and Cambodia in anti-dr

Burma, Laos and Cambodia in anti-drug war

By Nopporn Wong-Ann
The Asian Age (New Delhi)
July 26, 2000

Bangkok, July 25: Foreign ministers from Burma, Laos and Cambodia vowed
on Tuesday to step up efforts to reduce drug production and trafficking
in their countries.

Burma foreign minister Win Aung said his country has been actively
suppressing production of opium and trafficking of methamphetamine in
the country.

Burma is the world's second largest producer of opium and its derivative
heroin, as well as a major source of amphetamines.

Speaking one the sidelines of the 33rd annual Association of South East
Asian Nations ministerial meeting, Win Aung said his country supported
an Asean plan to make the 10-nation zone drug free by 2015, which was
agreed on Tuesday. Win Aung said Burma's military government encouraged
farmers to grow substitute crops instead of opium and this had cut opium
planting to 90,000 hectares, from 150,000 hectares, from three years

Regional health officials have said Yangon has done little to suppress
the drug trade.

Some even accuse the riling generals of directly supporting and
benefiting from the sale of narcotics, allegations the government

Thailand, which shares a border of more than 2,00 km with Burma, has
complained frequently and loudly that drugs from Burma are flooding the
country and pose a threat to the region.

The Thai Army said in June, drugs production and trafficking from Burma
was increasing rapidly posing a serious threat to Thailand and other
countries in the region because of the mass relocation of ethnic
minorities in Myanmar over the past year.

Thailand security authorities have said an alliance between Yangon and
an ethnic army, the United Wa State Army, will fuel sporadic conflicts
along the Thai border and help expand the drug distribution network of
the UWSA into Thailand.

Win Aung denied the allegations. "We never supported them. We don't have
any intention to make any trouble for Thai people. That is our political
will," he said.

Win Aung said methamphetamine, often known in its crystalised from as
Ice, was not Myanmar's "initial problem" because it started in Thailand,
where the base chemical was produced. He said Burma had seized over 17
million methamphetamine pills and 60,000 litres of the precursor
chemical this year.

He denied a report by a Thai security agency that as of May this year,
about 50 methamphetamine factories were newly established inside Burma
close to Thai border and 10 others had been set up in Laos also close to
the Thai border.

"The border is under our control there are none of those there," he told
reporters. Laos said it was working with the UN Drug Control Programme
to raise about $80 million for a joint-programme of crop substitution.