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Homeland Security

25 January 2005

Indicted Burma Drug Syndicate Posed Grave Threat, U.S. Says

Charges enable law enforcement agencies to restrict group's activities

By Judy Aita
Washington File Staff Writer

New York -- The drug trafficking activities of the United Wa State Army (UWSA) of Burma represent a "grave threat" with the potential to destabilize government institutions, Justice Department officials said at a January 24 press conference.

U.S. Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf of the Eastern District of New York and Anthony Placido, special agent-in-charge of the New York Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), announced that a Brooklyn grand jury had indicted eight senior leaders of the organization on charges of heroin and methamphetamine trafficking. 

The officials said the UWSA, which controls a large section of eastern Burma in the infamous "Golden Triangle" opium-producing region, is one of the largest heroin-trafficking organizations in Southeast Asia, producing over 180 metric tons of opium in 2004.  It commands 16,000 to 20,000 armed forces and allegedly uses coercion, violence and other brutally repressive methods to intimidate the ethnic minority population in the large, semi-autonomous region of the Shan State.

"Through these charges we are sending a signal that we are committed to putting international drug traffickers out of business," Mauskopf said.

Although it could take years - if ever - for the eight to be arrested and brought to trial in the United States, Mauskopf asserted that the indictments will allow law enforcement agencies in the United States and other countries "to seek to restrain over $100 million in assets directly traceable to the Wa Army and these defendants as well as … seize front companies managed and controlled by these defendants which operate in Burma, Thailand, Hong Kong, China and elsewhere and are used to launder the vast illegal profits from the Wa State Army's trafficking operations."

The officials said the indictment is the product of a long-term initiative lead by DEA with the cooperation of several branches of the Royal Thai Police, including the Narcotics Suppression Bureau, the Office of Narcotics Control Board, and the Anti-Money Laundering Office.

Indicted are:  Wei Hsueh Kang, special adviser to UWSA's Central Committee and one of the first designated by the United States in 2000 as a "drug kingpin"; Wei Hsueh Lung, UWSA minister of trade and finance; Wei Hsueh Ying, commander of military forces in UWSA's southern military region; Pao Yu Hsiang, commander-in-chief of UWSA; Pao Yu Yi, political commissar of UWSA's southern military region; Pao Yu Hua, who controls UWSA military forces in the Mong Hpen region; Pao Yu Liang, a member of UWSA's central committee who has served as the governor and commander of UWSA forces in the Mong Mao area; and Pao Hua Chiang, UWSA trade and finance minister.  The Weis are brothers, as are the Paos, with the exception of Pao Hua Chiang.

Wei Kang also faces charges under a 1993 indictment, and the U.S. State Department is currently offering a $2 million reward for information leading to his capture.

The January 24 indictment, DEA's Placido said, should restrict the movements of the individuals to the territory that they control because venturing elsewhere could lead to their arrest and extradition. 

Placido said the indictment is important for several reasons.  "The most significant fact … is that UWSA's enormous profits have been used to destabilize Burma and build an insurgent organization of … heavily armed troops that have become so strong that they control an autonomous region of the country.  Trafficking at this level represents a grave threat to all Americans and governments everywhere.  It has the potential to destabilize government institutions, (and) reduce the respect for the rule of law, in addition to fostering addiction."

The officials said the indictment exposes the Wa State Army for what it is -- a powerful criminal syndicate and worldwide narcotics trafficking organization, not an ethnic minority fighting for its rights.

They stressed that the indictment is not against the Wa people themselves, who live in abject poverty and repression while the defendants live in opulent surroundings and privilege.

Police Lieutenant General Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit, commissioner of the Narcotics Suppression Bureau of the Royal Thai Police, who also spoke at the press conference, said, "With this indictment we are saying 'no more.'  We will not let this minority group go on threatening the values and lives in the Far East any more.  We will do everything in our power to take from them their assets." 

The indictment alleges that UWSA and the defendants have engaged in the collection, transport and taxing of opium in the territories under their control; provide security for caravans smuggling drugs from Burma to Thailand, China, and Laos; have manufactured and distributed heroin and methamphetamine to the United States and throughout the world; and have laundered narcotics proceeds through seemingly legitimate businesses.

Companies named in the indictment include the Hong Pang Group; Hong Pang Company; Hong Pang Import/Export Company Ltd.; Hong Pang General Trading Company Ltd.; Hong Pang Wire and Cable Ltd.; Hong Pang Electric Industry Ltd.; Hong Pang Agricultural Ltd.; Hong Pang Textile Ltd.; Hong Pang Gems & Jewelry Ltd.; Hong Pang Gas and Lighter Ltd; and Hong Pang Highway Construction Ltd.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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