TITLE=BURMA / DRUGS
INTRO: The southeast Asian nation, Burma, is one of
the world's largest producers of illegal narcotics.
Burma's rulers say they are trying to suppress the
trade of illicit drugs, but complain their efforts are
suffering from a lack of resources. V-O-A Southeast
Asia Correspondent Gary Thomas reports professional
counter-narcotics officials are concerned sanctions
imposed on Burma because of its handling of human
rights issues in the country are crippling efforts to
fight narcotics traffic.
TEXT: Law enforcement officers from both the west and
Thailand say political concerns over human rights in
Burma are making it more difficult to stem the flow of
narcotics in Southeast Asia.
These officers -- most of whom did not want to be
quoted by name -- believe Burma is making good faith
efforts to stamp out the drug trade and that those
efforts could be far more effective with Western
technical help. However, sanctions -- leveled against
Burma for its treatment of the pro-democracy movement
-- bar any kind of U-S assistance to Rangoon,
including counter-narcotics aid.
Major General Viraj Juttimita is deputy commissioner
of Thailand's Narcotics Suppression Bureau and the
only official interviewed willing to speak on the
record. He is sharply critical of the U-S linkage
between narcotics and human rights.
// Viraj Actuality //
I think we should separate apples from pears when we
are dealing with human rights. It is a totally
separate issue from narcotics enforcement. And if we
want to stop narcotics from coming to the youth in our
country, we've got to attack the source's country. And
to attack the source's country, you've got to talk to
the people to mount a way and to plan and to scheme
and to try to push them, urge them, cajole, whatever
you name it, to try to make them do the work. And if
you don't talk to them - say, "no, no, no, no, we
cannot talk, we cannot do this, we cannot do that" -
then how are you going to get the problem solved? Why
do you talk to the Mexicans? Why do you talk to the
Colombians? Huh? They are all drug producers and
violators of human rights.
// End Actuality //
Burma is considered to be the world's largest producer
of illicit heroin and opium. There has also been a
sharp rise in the production of amphetamines.
Asked about the assertions, a U-S government spokesman
repeated the statement that Burma is not doing enough
to stem the flow of illegal drugs.
However, two years ago, Burmese drug kingpin Li Yun
Chung -- who was wanted in the United States -- fled
to Burma after he was released on bail in Thailand.
According to a former high-ranking official of the U-S
Drug Enforcement Agency in Asia, who asked not to be
named, Burma turned him over to Thailand knowing full
well he was to be extradited to the United States.
The former drug agent said the Burmese government was
hurt when it received no public credit from United
States for this.
Burma recently hosted a conference in Rangoon on
suppressing the heroin trade. The west -- led by the
United States -- boycotted the meeting. However, the
former Drug Enforcement Agency official said the D-E-A
wanted to send a delegation but was blocked from doing
so by the State Department.
General Viraj says the constant diet of criticism is
not helping counter-narcotics efforts in Burma, also
known as Myanmar.
// Viraj Actuality //
So why should we turn around and point to them,
"Myanmar is bad, bad boy, bad boy." When they've
done something good you never compliment them or you
never pat them on the back. Every human being they
need to be sometimes encouraged not discouraged all
// end actuality //
The former D-E-A official says there is a growing
sentiment to exempt counter-narcotics assistance from
the ban on aid to Burma. However, he says that would
have to win the support of Burmese pro-democracy
leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is against any kind of
aid to the ruling generals. He said there is also a
fear among democracy activists that knowledge acquired
from law enforcement training might be used by the
government against the democracy movement.
However, the U-S spokesman said there is no
possibility, in the near future, of having a ban on
aid to Burma lifted. (signed)
Neb / gpt / gc / wd
05-Aug-1999 07:07 AM EDT (05-Aug-1999 1107 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
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