At anytime, drugs were seized, ceasefire groups were often stereotyped as the producers and the owners of the products, especially nowadays, because the groups are at loggerheads with Burma’s ruling military junta over the junta’s run border guard force (BGF) program, said a ranking Wa official from Panghsang, on the Sino-Burma border.
“Whenever there is a drug seizure, almost everyone would report most of the time that it comes from the ceasefire groups, particularly the Wa, because we are in need for arms and ammo for our defense against the Burma Army,” said the officer who requested not to be named.
The United Wa State Army (UWSA) has been dubbed as a terrorist organization with connections to drug trafficking by the United States. Most of its leaders are also wanted by both Thailand and US.
“It is our turn to be the fall guys, like Khun Sa (late leader of the defunct Mong Tai Army) did for us in the past,” he said. “During Khun Sa’s days drugs seized were said to have come from him even though they actually come from the Wa. At that time he was a scapegoat for the Wa.”
“Now all fingers are upon us whether or not the drugs come from us. Maybe we are repaying for what we had done to Khun Sa.”
Meanwhile, the UWSA and its southern ally National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) better known as Mongla have been launching a joint operation against drug traders in their controlled regions since 1 August 2010, according to sources from Mongla and Panghsang.
“In August, Mongla alone arrested over 300 people ,” said the source returning from Mongla.
Likewise, Panghsang has so far seized over 30 different types of cars mostly owned by Chinese businessmen suspected as drug dealers, according to a source from Panghsang.
“I saw the cars gathered at the Weluwan monastery in Panghsang. Some owners were arrested by the Wa and some escaped,” he said.
A businessman from Shan State East speaking to the Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN), said anyone who wants to sell any kind of drugs must seek the assistance of the junta-backed militia units since the Burma Army’s relations with the Wa had turned sour over its BGF program outlined in April 2009. Since then the Burma Army had showered its favor on local militia units.
“The tables have turned now. Not only other dealers but the Wa as well have to pay militia units for the safe passage of their goods,” he said. “Now most of the drugs (pills, Ice and heroin) are manufactured by militia men. All their yaba pills are copying famous Wa brands.”
A long drug user in Shan State East’s Tachilek, opposite Thailand’s Mae sai said the quality of yaba (methamphetamine) is different even though similar in appearance.
“If it is militias’ products, the color will be lighter, the pill is softer, has much ash and not so strong. Moreover, the smell is not so fragrant as the Wa’s,” he said.
According to him, the price between the militias and the Wa’s products is also different in Tachilek markets. One pill of Yaba (methamphetamine) made by Wa is sold between Baht 42-43 ($1.4-1.43) and the militias’ pill is between Baht 30-33 ($1-1.1).
According to a SHAN’s source, prices of heroin and ice have also dropped during these days. “Only few people are asking to buy and sell heroin,” he said. “The rage now is Ice (crystal methamphetamine).”
Last year heroin price Baht 330,000 ($10,000) for 1 Jin (700 gm) and now has dropped to Baht 280,000-290,000 ($9,100.34-9,425.36). “It may be also related to the drop in the dollar price,” he said.
The most hit and best selling product now is “ice”, he said, whose price used to be Baht 800,000- 1 million ($26,000.98-32,501.22) per kilogram, now it is about Baht 520,000 ($16,900.64). “The Ice price in Bangkok is double Tachilek and ten times in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
According to him, King Roman Casino, opened in September 2009, on the Thai-Lao border has become where drug entrepreneur meet to make deals. “The areas around here are controlled by Naw Kham. Everyone must pay him protection money to get their goods across. No one dares to touch him because top Burma Army officers are behind him.”
SHAN will be releasing its 2009-2010 drug report next week, according to its editor Khuensai Jaiyen.