DATE=8/5/1999 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=BURMA / DRUGS NUMBER=5-44007 BYLINE=GARY THOMAS DATELINE=BANGKOK INTERNET=YES CONTENT= VOICED AT: 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 the time. // 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) NNNN Source: Voice of America .
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