Tag Archive: Burma


More young people are becoming addicted to heroin in Burma’s northernmost Kachin state as authorities fail to clamp down on dealers, sources in several towns have warned.

Males between the ages of 17 and 40 were among the most affected,s aid a resident of Mogaung town, which lies just west of the Kachin capital, Myitkyina. Other towns suffering rising rates of addiction were Mohnyin, Myitkyina and Hpakant, he added.

“The kids are so ruined,” the man said. “Everyone, from students aged around 18 to even farmers, are addicted to heroin. They were only trying it out at the beginning but now are addicted.”

He continued that most addicts were injecting the drug, a cheaper method despite the health risks. One intra-venous hit, he said, cost around 1000 kyat ($US1), while smoking through a pipe costs up to 4000 kyat ($US4.50).

A group of heroin dealers were reportedly arrested last month in Mohnyin by the government’s Anti-Drugs Task Force (ADTF) but later released on bail. The man said they had quickly got back to dealing.

BurmaBurma

Assertions by the Burmese government that it is stamping out the country’s lucrative drugs trade have been widely doubted: the US released a report last week saying that Burma had “demonstrably failed” to halt the trade of heroin and its derivative, opium, whilst statistics showed that in-country production of methamphetamine continues to rise.

The report was followed by an announcement in the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper that 15,021 acres of poppy fields were destroyed in 2010-2011, 411 of which were in Kachin state. Regardless, however, criticism continues to abound.

“The government is the main culprit for this,” said the Mogaung resident. “The government is the first to blame and the dealers the second. They are openly selling drugs on a tray.”

He claimed that dealers paid monthly bribes of up to 400,000 kyat ($US450) to government officials, including the ANTF.

Two years ago the Kachin News Group released an alarming report claiming that a significant number of students at the once prestigious Myitkyina University in Kachin state had fallen victim to drug addiction, notably heroin, with dealers initially luring students in with free samples.

Until the late 1990s and the explosion in Afghan heroin, Burma had held the distinction of being the world’s leading source of the narcotic, with the ethnic United Wa State Army producing hundreds of thousands of tonnes each year.

A report released last year by the Thailand-based Shan Drug Watch claimed that junta-backed militias had taken over ethnic armies as Burma’s main drugs’ producers, with the product finding its way to neighbouring Thailand and China.

 

source:http://www.eurasiareview.com/world-news/asia/burma-heroin-use-up-as-supply-goes-unchecked-08032011/

Advertisements

BANGKOK, Sep 29, 2010 (IPS) – Dustbins in a university toilet rarely elicit a second look, but those at one of the oldest universities in Burma’s Kachin State do offer reason to pause. The bins, after all, collect a special form of garbage disposed of by students – hypodermic needles and syringes they have used to inject themselves with heroin.

The special bins were introduced to Myitkyina University as part of a humanitarian gesture by two non-government organisations – the French-based Medecins Du Monde (MDM) and Holland-based Artsen Zonder Grenzen (AZG) – with the aim of reducing injuries that students often get from stepping on used needles and syringes strewn around the campus.

It is normal to find „discarded bloody syringes, needles, and syringe packets (that) are littered in latrines, under stairwells and bushes, and even scattered on the football field“, according to the Kachin News Group.

It is these details, which expose the alarming level of heroin addiction in the university of some 3,000 students, that Nawdin Lahpai of the Kachin News Group cites when painting a grim picture of „the future leaders of the Kachins being destroyed by drugs“.

„The drug addiction was not as high as it is now in the university, which is located in the capital of the Kachin State,“ the editor of the news organisation, based in Thailand’s northern city of Chiang Mai, told IPS. „It has changed since 2004. Now heroin is easily accessible everywhere.“

Some estimate that over 50 percent of the male and female students seek a narcotic fix. „Students can be seen openly purchasing drugs in shops, cafes, billiard centres and houses near the university,“ with sales beginning as early as 8 a.m. in some places, states a brief study released Wednesday by Nawdin’s media group.

The leaders of the Kachin, an ethnic minority that has, like other ethnic groups, been persecuted by the Burmese military, place the blame for this situation of drug abuse squarely on the country’s junta.

They accuse the regime of promoting the narcotics trade to further torment the country’s beleaguered minorities – and weaken their social fabric.

„The military government must bear responsibility for this spread of drugs into the communities,“ Col James Lum Dau, deputy chief of foreign affairs of the Kachin Independence Organisation, said in an interview. „But the students being addicted to drugs also need to discipline themselves.“

Such concern about heroin use in Burma, also known as Myanmar, is shared in both the Kachin and the neighbouring Shan State, home to the ethnic Shan, near the Chinese border. Both provinces are where most of the opium – a thick paste extracted from poppy to make heroin – is grown in the country.

The Kachin and the Shan are among the 130 ethnic communities in Burma, majority of whose more than 55 million people are with the Burman ethnic group.

Currently, 46 of the Shan State’s 55 townships are growing poppy, Khuensai Jaiyen of the Shan Drug Watch told a press conference here on Sep. 29 to launch the Chiang Mai- based organisation’s 2010 report. „This is attributed to the Burma Army’s reliance on taxation of opium, and its policy to allow numerous proxy militia to deal in drugs.“

„Most of the poppy-growing areas are under control of the Burmese army and the Burmese army’s local militia,“ he added. „The Burmese army needs the drug trade to feed its own troops.“

The continuing presence of poppy fields in the rugged, mountainous corner of Burma over a decade after the regime announced it was determined to eradicate the drug trade by 2014 troubles the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

In a December 2009 report, the U.N. agency revealed that the area under poppy cultivation had increased 50 percent since 2006 to 31,700 hectares. „More than one million people are now involved in opium cultivation in Myanmar, most of them in Shan State, where 95 percent of Myanmar’s poppy is grown.“

In fact, „2009 saw the third successive annual increase in cultivation,“ said Gary Lewis, head of the UNODC’s East Asia and Pacific office, in an interview. „Our assessment convinces us that we need to remain very concerned about the extent of opium cultivation in Myanmar.“

This trend marks a reversal of the dramatic drop in Burma’s opium production in the mid-1990s, when it enjoyed the notoriety of being the world’s leading opium producer. The 1995-96 harvest season saw poppy cultivation peak at an estimated 163,000 hectares, producing 1,760 metric tonnes of opium, says the UNODC.

„At that time these figures were the highest in the world,“ said Lewis. „By 2001-2002 however, domestic cultivation had declined to 81,400 hectares and estimated opium production had decreased to 828 metric tonnes.“

The Burmese regime’s 1999 announcement that it would eradicate the drug trade in 15 years saw the country give way, in 2000, to Afghanistan as the world’s largest heroin supplier.

But the junta’s continued support of opium production convinces the likes of Khuensai that the regime’s ‘war on drugs’ is a „charade“. „This is evident from the junta’s local militias emerging as the new drug lords in Burma.“

The easy access to drugs in Kachin State exposes the junta’s plans „to profit at the expense of the ethnic groups,“ adds Nawdin. „It is almost like a Cold War to destroy the young.“

source is: http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=53002

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.

Drug economics in Burma’s new political order

The regime’s biggest threat for the past half-century, besides Aung San Suu Kyi, has been rebel armies from various ethnic groups. For decades the regime has worked to increase its presence in these rural areas by building paramilitary allies in hostile regions. The local militias suppress rebel activities in exchange for the freedom to produce and transport drugs with full military co-operation. As the military brokered more deals, its obsession with power quickly took precedence over its war on drugs. Now the regime is more powerful than ever, due to a survival strategy that is largely subsidised by Burma’s multi-billion-dollar drug trade. Perry Santanachote examines that trade, the people who benefit from it and cover it up, the victims and those caught in between.

drug-burma1
MYANMAR, LWE SAN SONE RANGE : A Myanmar soldier, holding his machine gun, displays to foreign journalists opium poppies 15 January 2000 during the destruction of an opium field near the notorious Golden Triangle. Fifty thousands villagers will be uprooted from their homes in this lucrative opium area to be relocated in an unprecedented mass migration project designed to crippled heroin production. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel DUNAND

Welcome to Shan State: land of the drug lords

Aung Min, like many in Rangoon, grew up poor. He enlisted in the Burmese army in 1999 at the age of 18 with ambitions that he would one day join the ranks of his commanding officers. By 2003 he was a second lieutenant stationed in Laukkaing Township in Shan State and led a group of 20 men – his pockets filled reliably with drug money.

Opium production has been an economical lynchpin in eastern Shan State since the late 1940s when military leaders refused to honour the Panglong Agreement that granted autonomy to ethnic states. Rebel armies grew as their drug trade took over the region, and then the world. Shan warlord Khun Sa dominated Southeast Asia’s infamous Golden Triangle with his heroin enterprise through the 1980s and 1990s. By 1995, the Golden Triangle, the mountainous region where Burma, Laos and Thailand meet, became the world’s leader in opium production. His 30-year revolutionary war ended in 1996 but heroin continues to flow out of the state, albeit at a lower rate, with a new breed of drug lords.

Despite acknowledgement by the US State Department that poppy cultivation in Burma today is less than 20 per cent of what it was in the mid-1990s, it’s still an annual multi-billion-dollar business. Burma remains the world’s second-largest opium producer after Afghanistan, and processed 330 metric tonnes, or 17 per cent, of last year’s world supply, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) 2010 World Drug Report. Poppy cultivation has also been on a steady incline for the past three years.

Other pages in the report show that Burma is also Asia’s largest producer of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS), which include methamphetamine, distributed in the form of the cheap and chemically dirty pills, most commonly known in Thailand and the region as ya baa (crazy drug); and the more expensive and cleaner crystalline form known as Ice. Burmese production of methamphetamine coincided with reduced opium production, but producers did not necessarily switch over.

“There has been more production last year when it comes to stimulants because of the increased involvement by the junta-backed militia groups,” Khun Seng, an editor at the independent media and research group Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN), said. “When the militia groups support the political aspirations of the junta they are also supported by the junta in their drug activities.”

“And if you’re the drug boss,” he added. “You’ll do anything that’ll bring in money. If I’m producing more meth it is because of the market – the buyers. Right now, for two years in a row, opium production has been down so there is less production of heroin than in other years, that’s all. They are not intentionally switching from heroin production to meth production.”

Pornthep Eamprapai, director of the Office of the Narcotics Control Board in Chiang Mai, said heroin and opium production was down because of climatic conditions and drought, not because of eradication. “Meth” quickly filled that gap in recent years, he said, because consumer demand in Thailand is high due to economic and social instability. Thais are becoming addicted to ya baa at an alarming rate, while they were never too keen on heroin.

“Making meth is so much easier too,” Pornthep said. “Cooking up meth or Ice doesn’t require any crop.”

Another big difference between today’s drug trade and that of the Khun Sa era, is that it is now increasingly controlled by the government. Former Prime Minister Khin Nyunt engineered a series of ceasefires with major drug-producing militias in 2003-2004 and incorporated them into the economy and constitutional process, creating an environment conducive to drug production and collusion between military personnel and drug traffickers. The regime has been suspected of involvement in the drug trade in the past but never at the level seen today.

In the past decade, the military regime has prioritised keeping it under wraps and making it appear as though it has waged a war on drugs. In 1999 the military inducted a 15-year drug-eradication programme, made lofty promises to the international community to crack down on trafficking, publicised some token drug busts and even opened an anti-drug museum. But these acts were all sleight of hand – an illusion to placate the international community. Although, they may have worked.

The UNODC commended the junta for its “considerable decrease in the area under cultivation and a strong decline in potential opium production” in its Opium Poppy Cultivation Report last year and budgeted US$7.7 million for the eradication programme between 2004 to 2007.

“It’s just another attempt to get the international community to pay for ordinary development programmes instead of using the state budget for that purpose,” said Chiang Mai-based author Bertil Lintner, who chronicled the history of Burma’s heroin warlords in his book, Burma In Revolt, and more recently the multi-billion-dollar methamphetamine trade in Merchants of Madness: The Methamphetamine Explosion in the Golden Triangle.

“And most of the UNODC’s programmes are just that – ordinary development programmes that have little or nothing to do with drug eradication,” Lintner said.

Pornthep says the Thai government gives Burma 20 million baht (US$625,000) annually every year for opium eradication.

“Their [Burma’s] government isn’t doing enough because they don’t have the resources,” he said. “Therefore they need co-operation and aid from other countries.”

Eleven years later, drug lords continue to operate with impunity and the Burmese Army remains closely involved in the lucrative opium economy, using it as leverage against ceasefire armies. As its deadline approaches, Burma is nowhere near being a drug-free nation. Only 13 townships of the targeted 51 can claim to be poppy-free, while the others are still growing, according to the 2009 Shan Drug Watch Report.

Military culture: a paradigm shift

In 2003 Aung Min was riding high on drug “taxes” collected from traffickers that crossed into his command area, but one day he arrested and executed 15 traffickers, seized their heroin and sold it on the Chinese black market for 200 million Kyats (US $200,000), 20 times more than he would make in a year of tax collecting.

drug-burma2
MYANMAR, LOWI SOI : A poppy sticks out among others in this poppy-field outside the village of Lowi Soi, in Myanmar’s Northern Shan state, close to the Chinese border, 26 February. This is in one of the few opium growing settlements in the region which the government says has escaped its anti-drug campaign. Myanmar authorities took some delegates from the Interpol Fourth International Heroin Conference and journalists to see the results of its anti-opium campaign which won an endorsement from the world police body. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel DUNAND …

Military intelligence investigated Aung Min shortly after the incident when his foot soldiers were seen suddenly adorned in gold jewellery and he had made a considerable transaction to his mother in the middle of Burma’s banking crisis that had left several banks bankrupt and the Kyat inflated beyond repair. That red flag landed him 15 years in prison. However, the crime he committed was not really the problem; it was the spectacle that got him in trouble.

“Military officers’ involvement in drug trafficking is very common, particularly in Shan State. Even the killing,” said an ex-army captain and friend of Aung Min. “It’s rare that they are arrested. Aung Min was inexperienced so he didn’t know how to be low-profile.”

The former officer divulged Aung Min’s story on condition of anonymity. He left the army last year after 10 years of service and now lives across the border in northern Thailand. He went through three years of officer intake with Aung Min and said they were close friends. The last time they saw each other was on October 7, 2002.

“He was very honest – a simple man,” he said. “I was surprised when I found out. I think it was due to the environment because he was assigned to this area and this kind of bribing, taking money, dealing drugs – this might have changed him.”

Many Burmese soldiers survive on revenues collected from extortion fees because their salaries are meagre and the government has cut off their rations. Today, a private earns about 16,000 Kyats a month, a sergeant earns 35,000 to 40,000 Kyats, while a major general earns 800,000 Kyats.

“The army capacity is also declining: the fighting capacity, military capacity, administration capacity, organising capacity. It’s all due to mismanagement,” he said. “While at the top level they’re getting more benefits and becoming wealthier.”
The ex-army captain explained that battalions had been cut down, but they still had the same amount of work. Faced with the challenge, they had to get creative and make deals with traffickers instead of trying to fight them.

“We can’t fight Karen rebels with 120 soldiers. It’s like 120 people with the duties of 500,” he said.

In 2005, headquarters ordered him to set fire to 180 homes in a Karen village in Kanasoepin Village, Thandaung Township.

“My superiors asked the villagers to forcibly relocate to a designated area. They wanted to control them and destroy the village so they couldn’t communicate with rebels,” he said. “I had to get an agreement with the village head to set up three houses only, document and report to regional command. This way it’d be win-win.”

In this incidence, “win-win” was not bribery, it was security. He only had 18 soldiers with him that day, in an area he referred to as “the black area” where Karen rebels are active.

“If we burned down the village, the Karen rebels would have attacked us,” he said. At that point, he realised he wanted out of the army. “I didn’t want to live with that stress anymore – to deal with that anymore.”

He said there were no official orders to bribe opium farmers or traffickers, but that it had become a major component of military culture. Everyone takes bribes and the money goes all the way up the chain until it eventually reaches Senior General Than Shwe. Officers stress that discretion is key because of the military’s appearance of reform. If a soldier’s actions threaten to expose their role in the drug trade, he will suffer the same fate as Aung Min.

Aung Min’s story illustrates the military’s deep involvement in the drug trade – a complete contradiction to the image it has projected to the world.

Appearances deceptive

A favoured tactic of the regime in its delusive fight against drugs is the highly publicised heroin eradication programme, which the ex-officer explained is set up.

There would be orders from the regional command centre to cut off poppy at a plantation, he said. The authorities would call the farmers and village leader before heading out and telling them to prepare the crop. Upon arrival the farmers would show the soldiers the unusable poppy plants, made so by the plants’ inability to produce the seeds required to make heroin. The soldiers would slash these and leave the good ones intact. Then they would document the eradication with photographs and bonfires. Afterwards, the soldiers collect 10 million Kyats from the village head. This process is repeated every three months.

The Palaung Women’s Organisation (PWO), an NGO based in Mae Sot, Thailand, found in its 2009 report, Poisoned Hills, that only 11 per cent of poppy fields had been destroyed the previous season, mostly in areas visible to the UN’s satellite monitors. The police reports they obtained claimed that 25 per cent of fields were destroyed.

More “taxes” are collected in the trafficking process too. The ex-army captain explained that regional commanders communicate with ceasefire group leaders and issue passes to place on the narcotics cargo trucks so that they are exempt from searches at checkpoints. There are 13 regional commanders throughout the state. About three of them: the Eastern, the Northeastern and Triangle commanders are active in the drug trade. Prime Minister Thein Sein is a prime example of the power these regional commanders hold, as he was the Triangle Regional Commander in 2001 and dealt with Shan warlords on a regular basis before his promotion in 2007.

‘Politically correct’ drug trade

“In my 10 years in the army there’s been an increase in drugs, trafficking, bribes and this kind of involvement,” said the ex-army captain.
The escalation in drug activities is partly caused by the growing number of militia and ceasefire groups.

“Before the army got an agreement with the ceasefire groups they fought against the rebels and weren’t involved in drug trafficking because they were not friends, they were enemies,” said the former captain. “After the ceasefire they had to get money from them for sustainability.”

Today there is an estimated 17 ceasefire agreements with the country’s ethnic rebel groups. The number of active militia groups is unknown, but the SHAN received junta documents that revealed 396 in the Northeastern command alone. In the run up to this year’s election, the military has increased pressure on ceasefire groups to join its Border Guard Force. Those that concede and support the junta’s political ambitions are awarded with military support in their drug activities. SHAN editor Khun Seng said that the junta party needs canvassers that have influence in their respective communities.

“Those who are most influential are involved in the drug trade, especially the militia leaders,” he said. “These people will take advantage of the situation.”

Khun Seng said that as an extra incentive, each militia group was now assigned an operational area where they could do whatever they want without disruption.

“If you are ‘politically correct’, you can do anything in Burma,” he said.

As an example he described this year’s Armed Forces Day in Burma.

“The commander [Colonel Khin Maung Soe] in Tachilek spoke on the sidelines to the militia leaders, ‘This is your golden opportunity. My only advice is that you send your products across the border, but not on this [Burma’s] side’,” Khun Seng said.

PWO’s investigation corroborated SHAN’s accounts that more drugs were indeed coming out of militia-run areas. It reported that opium cultivation increased over 200 per cent in Mantong and Namkham townships in Shan State, both areas controlled by the government. During the 2008-2009 season, the acreage found by PWO for only these two townships, out of the total 23 townships in Northern Shan State, was nearly three times (4,545 hectares) the total recorded by UNODC for all 23 townships combined. The UNODC reported a 100 per cent increase in that same time period in all of Northern Shan State, from 800 hectares to 1,600 hectares.

Both SHAN and PWO have criticised the UNODC’s methodology, which relies on data reported by the junta’s (State Peace and Development Council, SPDC) eradication reports and satellite imagery without proper verification.

The ONCB in Thailand also acquires its Burma drug data from the SPDC.

“For the most part we exchange data with them with good communication and understanding,” Pornthep said. “There has been no lying on their part and their data can be backed up. For instance, the figures for poppy cultivation are the same as the UNODC, the US and China.

“We never meet with the NGOs in Burma,” he added. “We only communicate with the government and narcotic police.”

Seizures mean little

Khun Seng also disputed a statement in the UNODC World Drug Report that attributed the increase in methamphetimine production to ethnic insurgencies in Shan State readying to fight the SPDC by selling more drugs to purchase arms.

“The Kokang and Wa are producing at the normal rate, no more, no less. The increase is due to the involvement of the militia groups, he said. “Now with the Wa and Kokang, these people can produce but they can’t transport without the co-operation of the militia groups. If they do it by themselves they are caught.”

drug-burma3
MYANMAR, LWE SAN SONE RANGE : A Myanmar soldier walks in between two poppy flowers while destroying opium poppies 15 January 2000 during a narcotics crop destruction in Lwe San Sone Range. Myanmar soldiers and tribes people destroyed acres of poppy plantations in Shan State, one of the world’s largest opium growing area, as part of a broader campaign by Myanmar authorities to eradicate the narcotics trade in their country. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel DUNAND

Which explains the number of seized drugs in Burma. UNODC Regional Representative Gary Lewis stated at the release of the 2010 World Drug Report in Bangkok, that 23 million methamphetamine pills were seized in Burma last year, from one million in 2008. Lewis said the numbers likely reflect a surge in production, rather than crime prevention.

Khun Seng agreed that more seizures meant more production, but said that was only part of the picture. The military was particular about where the seizures came from. That is, when the seizures were not fabricated. Militia-produced drugs almost always made it across the border, he said.

The Kokang, a ceasefire group well known for drug production and trafficking along the Sino-Burmese border, were recently attacked by the SPDC for their refusal to join the Border Guard Force and all their drugs were seized. The regime long turned a blind eye to the Kokang’s drug operations and even publicised the area as a “drug-free zone” after its eradication campaign, but in August last year, this all changed and the regime announced a massive seizure of drugs in the Kokang area, while driving more than 37,000 refugees into China.

Several large shipments of methamphetamine, believed to have originated from the United Wa State Army (UWSA), were also recently seized in Tachilek near the Thailand border.

“Seizures are irrelevant and are made only when the authorities want to put pressure on, for instance, the UWSA, for political and security reasons,” Lintner said.

The UWSA, armed with 30,000 soldiers, is the largest ceasefire group to reject the junta’s proposal to become part of the Border Guard Force and the military has turned up the heat as the election approaches. Much of the seized drugs last year are believed to have come from the Kokang and Wa – seizures that would never have happened in the past.

“Proceeds from the drug trade were always a major source of income for several rebel armies in Burma, before and after the ceasefires,” Lintner said. “But the Burmese government and the UNODC chose to turn a blind eye to the traffic as long as the ceasefire groups were on good terms with the government. Now, when some of the ceasefire armies are resisting the government’s demands that they transform their respective armies into Border Guard Forces, they are suddenly being accused of trading in drugs, which they have always done.”

Even with the drastic surge in methamphetamine seizures, the World Drug Report noted that seizures continued to remain very low in Burma. Despite being the second-largest producer of heroin in the world, only one per cent of worldwide heroin interception was seized in Burma in 2008. Similarly, of the 32 million tablets seized in East and Southeast Asia in 2008, only about three per cent, or 1.1 million, were seized in Burma.

The report also states that the number of tablets and the amount precursor chemicals seized in Burma jumped last year, when the SPDC entered by force parts of north and eastern Shan State not under their control.

The new political order

The new drug economy that the SPDC has built in Burma will only worsen as the regime’s crusade for power and control intensifies in the run-up to the election. Lintner anticipates the drug trade will eclipse what was seen in the 1990s.

“In 1990, only opium was produced, and the derivative heroin,” he said. “The production increased dramatically in the 1990s, and now is back to what it was 20 years ago. Plus methamphetamines, which were unknown in the Burmese sector of the Golden Triangle 20 years ago.”

In 1997, then US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright knew all too well where Burma’s drug trade would lead when she aptly stated, “Drug traffickers who once spent their days leading mule trains down jungle tracks are now leading lights in Burma’s new market economy and leading figures in its new political order.”

source: http://www.mizzima.com/news/inside-burma/4218-drug-economics-in-burmas-new-political-order.html

This is a little bit out of time but still interesting!

„SINGAPORE’S economic linkage with Burma is one of the most vital factors for the survival of Burma’s
military regime,“ says Professor Mya Maung, a Burmese economist based in Boston. This link, he continues,
is also central to „the expansion of the heroin trade.“ Singapore has acieved the distinction of being the
Burmese junta’s number one business partner – both largest trading partner and largest foreign investor. More
than half these investments, totaling upwards of $1.3 billion, are in partnership with Burma’s infamous heroin
kingpin Lo Hsing Han who now controls a substantial portion of the world’s opium trade. The close political,
economic and military relationship between the two countries facilitates the weaving of millions of narcodollars
into the legitimate world economy.

Singapore has become a major player in Asian commerce. According to Steven Green, US Ambassador to
Singapore, free market policies have „allowed this small country to develop one of the world’s most successful
trading and investment economies.“ Singapore also has a strong role in the powerful 132-member country
World Trade Organization. Indeed, the tiny China Sea island of three and a half million people is known far
and wide as the blue chip of the region – a financial trading base and a route for the vast sums of money that
flow in and out of Asia.

If the brutal Burmese dictatorship’s international pariah status is of any concern to its more powerful partner,
Singapore shows no sign of it. Following the March 24 visit of Singapore’s Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong to
Rangoon, a Singapore spokesperson proclaimed, „Singapore and Myanmar should continue to explore areas
where they can complement each other.“ As both countries continue to celebrate their „complementary“
relationship, the international community must take note of the powerful support this relationship provides
both to Burma’s illegitimate regime and to its booming billion dollar drug trade.

Drugs ‘R’ Us
THE Burmese military dictatorship – known by the acronym slorc for State Law and Order Restoration
Council until it changed its name to the State Peace and Development Council (spdc) last November –
depends on the resources of Burma’s drug barons for its financial survival. Since it seized power in 1988,
opium production has doubled, equaling all legal exports and making the country the world’s biggest heroin
supplier. Burma now supplies the US with 60 percent of its heroin imports and has recently become a major
regional producer of methamphetamines. With 50 percent of the economy unaccounted for, drug traffickers,
businessmen and government officials are able to integrate spectacular profits throughout Burma’s permanent
economy.

Both the Burmese generals and drug lords have been able to take advantage of Singapore’s liberal banking
laws and money laundering opportunities. In 1991, for eaxample, the slorc laundered $400 million through a
Singapore bank which it used as a down payment for Chinese arms. Despite the large sum, Burma’s foreign
exchange reserves registered no change either before or after the sale. With no laws to prevent money
laundering, Singapore is widely reported to be a financial haven for Burma’s elite, including its two most
notorious traffickers, Lo Hsing Han and Khun Sa (also known by his Chinese name Chang Qifu).
SLORC cut a deal with Khun Sa for his „surrender“ in early 1996, allowing him protection and business
opportunities in exchange for retirement from the drug trade.

Khun Sa now bills himself as „a commercial real estate agent who also has a foot in the Burmese construction
industry.“ Already in control of a bus route into the northern poppy growing region where the military is
actively involved in the drug business, he is now investing $250 million in a new highway between Rangoon
and Mandalay, an spdc cabinet member confirmed. „The Burmese government says one thing but does
another,“ according to Banphot Piamdi, director of Thailand’s Northern Region’s Narcotics Suppression
Center. „It claims to have subdued Khun Sa’s group…However the fact is that the group under the supervision
of…Khun Sa’s son has received permission from Rangoon to produce narcotics in the areas along the
Thai-Burmese border.“

Khun Sa’s son is not the only trafficker reaping benefits in the Shan State area which borders Thailand and
China and serves as Burma’s primary poppy growing area. Field intelligence and ethnic militia sources
consistently report a pattern of Burmese military involvement with drug production in these remote areas.
Government troops offer protection to the heroin and amphetamine refineries in the area in exchange for
payoffs and gifts, such as Toyota sedans, pistols and army uniforms. The only access to the refineries is
through permits issued by Burmese military intelligence – without this, the heavily guarded areas surrounding
the refineries are too dangerous to approach. The military is also involved in protecting the transport of
narcotics throughout the region, which the authorities have sealed off from the outside world.
„There are persistent and reliable reports that officials, particularly army personnel posted in outlying areas,
are involved in the drug business,“ confirms the March 1998 US government narcotics report. „Army
personnel wield considerable political clout locally, and their involvement in trafficking is a significant
problem.“ Intelligence sources, working for ethnic leaders combating both the drug trade and the military
dictatorship, report that the pattern of government involvement extends all the way to the top. The central
government in Rangoon demands funds on a regular basis from regional commanders who, in turn, expect
payoffs from the rank and file. The soldiers get the money any way they can – through smuggling, gambling or
selling jade – with drugs being the most accessible source of revenue in Shan State. The officers in the field
also „tax“ refineries, drug transporters, and opium farmers.

At great risk, the intellignce sources – who go undercover to infiltrate troops in the field — collect
painstakingly detailed data including names, dates and places, such as these delivered in March 1998 from
Shan State: „On 10th Jan. 98, spdc army no. 65 stationed at Mong Ton sent 40 troops to Nam Hkek village,
Pon Pa Khem village tract, collected 0.16 kilo of opium per household or [collected payment of] Baht 600.
Then the troops sold the collected opium to the drug business men at the rate of Baht 6000 for 1.6 kilos „
Another report states: „Troops from spdc Battalion nos. 277 & 65 stationed at Mong Ton are still protecting
heroin refineries situated at Hkai lon, Pay lon & Ho ya areas, Mong Ton township. Those who can pay
B.200,00 per month are allowed to run the heroin refineries.“ And: „On 3rd of Jan. 98, Burma Army no. 99
collected opium tax in Lashio township. They charged 0.32 kilo per household. They arrested and beat
seriously those who failed to give.“

These sources also report that Ko Tat, Private 90900 from spdc battalion no. 525 stationed in Lin Kay,
recently defected from the Burmese army and said that his company had been giving protection to the opium
fields around Ho Mong. While the lower ranked officers struggle to meet their quotas in the field, the highest
levels of the goverment in the capital city strike deals with Burma’s two top traffickers, one of whom is the
prosperous partner of Singapore.
Lo Hsing Han: At Home in Singapore
WITH massive financial ties to Singapore, Lo Hsing Han is now one of Burma’s top investors. He, along with
Khun Sa, the former „king of opium,“ is a major player in the Burmese economy.
In the early 1990s, Lo Hsing Han controlled the most heavily armed drug-trafficking organization in Southeast

Asia. He was arrested in 1973 and sentenced to death, but was freed under a general amnesty in 1980. Now,

like Khun Sa, he wears the public persona of a successful businessman in Rangoon – where no one does
business without close government cooperation. Although he still overseas rural drug operations with the
status of a godfather, according to US narcotics officials, the notorious Lo currently serves as an advisor on
ethnic affairs to Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt, the military intelligence chief and the junta’s powerful „Secretary 1.“
Lo Hsing Han is the chair of Burma’s biggest conglomerate, Asia World, founded in 1992. His son, Steven
Law, is managing director and also runs three companies in Singapore which are „overseas branches“ of Asia
World. Although Singapore is proud of its mandatory death penalty for small-time narcotics smugglers and
heroin addicts, both father and son travel freely in and out of the friendly island nation. „The family money is
offshore,“ said a high level US narcotics official. „The old man is a convicted drug trafficker, so his kid is
handling the financial activities.“

In 1996, when Law married his Singaporean business partner in a lavish, well-publicized Rangoon wedding,
guests from Singapore were flown in on two chartered planes. According to a high-level US government
official familiar with the situation, Law’s wife Cecilia Ng operates an underground banking system, and „is a
contact for people in Burma to get their drug money into Singapore, because she has a connection to the
government.“ The official said that she spends half her time in Rangoon, half in Singapore; when in Rangoon,
she is headquartered at Asia Lite, a subsidiary of Asia World. The husband-wife team are also the sole
officers and shareholders of Asia World subsidiary, Kokang Singapore Pte Ltd. Founded in Singapore in 1993
with $4.6 million, the company „engages in general trading activities in goods/products of all
kinds/descriptions.“

Singapore’s ventures with Asia World include both government and private investments. Kuok Singapore
Ltd., a partner with Asia World in many ventures, was Burma’s largest single real estate investor as of late
1996, with over $650 million invested. Other Singaporean companies are mentioned in Asia World’s company
reports. Sinmardev, another major Singaporean project linked to Lo’s company, is a $207 million industrial
park and port on the outskirts of Rangoon, which broke ground in 1997. Singaporean entrepreneur Albert
Hong, head of Sinmardev, described the project as the largest foreign investment in Burma outside the energy
field. The Singaporean consortium leads the joint venture along with the Burmese junta, Lo’s Asia World, and
a slew of international shareholders.

Kuok Singapore Ltd., Lo Hsing Han’s Asia World, and the Burmese junta are also partners in the luxury
Traders Hotel. The hotel’s November 1996 opening ceremony was attended by the Singapore ambassador, the
president of Kuok Singapore, and briefly by Lo Hsing Han himself. The presiding Burmese minister publicly
thanked Steven Law and the government of Singapore „without whose support and encouragement there
would be very few Singaporean businessmen in our country.“
While government and business connections in Burma and Singapore have boosted Asia World’s prospects,
other factors have contributed to the company’s extraordinary growth. In the last six years, Asia World has
expanded from a modest trading company to become Burma’s largest and fastest-growing private sector
enterprise with interests in trading, manufacturing, property, industrial investment, development, construction,
transportation, import and distribution, and infrastructure. „How is it that a company that has a humble
beginning trading beans and pulses is suddenly involved in $200 million projects?“ a US government official
said, requesting anonymity. „Where did all that start-up capital come from?“

The US government ventured a guess in 1996: it denied Asia World’s CEO Steven Law a visa to the US „on
suspicion of drug trafficking.“ Asia World’s operations now include a deepwater port in Rangoon, the Leo
Express bus line into Northern Burma, and a $33 million toll highway from the heart of Burma’s poppygrowing
region to the China border. On December 20, the conglomerate opened a wharf with freight handling,
storage, and a customs yard for ships carrying up to 15,000 tons. „If you’re in the dope business, these are the
types of things that you’ve got to have to be able to move your product,“ said a high level US narcotics
official. „They have set up institutions to facilitate the movement of drugs. And in all probability, they are

using laundered drug proceeds, or funds generated from investments of drug trafficking proceeds, to build this
infrastructure,“ he added.

The activities of Lo’s company Asia World have triggered an international narcotics investigation lead by
Washington. US investigators allege that Asia World’s relationship to Singapore paves the way for the
narcotics trade to be woven into all legitimate investments between the two countries. „Singapore’s
investments in Burma are opening doors for the drug traffickers, giving them access to banks and financial
systems,“ said one government official familiar with the situation.
One Stop Shopping: Intelligence to Repression
THE Burmese junta’s control of its impoverished population through crude methods such as torture, forced
labor, and mass killings leaves it open to international condemnation. In contrast, Singapore takes a more
sophisticated approach to repression, both at home and abroad. While the island-nation’s citizens have
material benefits and the appearance of rule of law, they live in fear of an Orwellian government that closely
monitors every aspect of their lives. The ruling party often sues those who dare to oppose it on trumped up
defamation charges, forcing many into bankruptcy or exile.

The FBI is investigating complaints by US citizens of harassment by Singapore’s Internal Security Department
(ISD). One California academic, a widely respected specialist on Southeast Asian affairs who asked not to be
identified, says ISD agents broke into his home because he was working to bring leading Singaporean
opposition figure Tang Liang Hong to an American university. The operatives tore out his door handle to get
in, then searched his computer and desk. A week later, an Asian man, waiting in a tree, photographed and
videotaped the academic while he walked in the park. After temporarily blinding the academic with his bright
flash, the man jumped from the tree and made a getaway in his car. Tang – who is facing a $4.5 million
defamation lawsuit by Singaporean senior ministers – was not surprised by the burglary. „I’ve been followed
everywhere, whether I was in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Australia or in London,“ he said in a phone interview
from Australia.

Singapore has been more than willing to share its expertise in intelligence with its Burmese counterparts. The
Singapore-Myanmar Ministerial-Level Work Committee was set up in 1993 in Rangoon to „forge mutual
benefits in investment, trade and economic sectors.“ The committee includes intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Khin
Nyunt, other top Burmese ministers, and high-level Singaporean officials. At the December 23 meeting, Khin
Nyunt urged his ministers to give priority to projects arranged by the Singaporean Government. „Pilot projects
are being implemented to transfer know how to Myanmar,“ said Khin Nyunt in his address.
One such project is a state-of-the-art cyber-war center in Rangoon. Burma’s military leaders can now
intercept a range of incoming communications – including telephone calls, faxes, emails and computer data
transmissions – from 20 other countries.

The high-tech cyber-war center was built by Singapore Technologies, the city-state’s largest industrial and
technology conglomerate, comprising more than 100 companies. This government-owned company also
provides on-site training at Burma’s Defense Ministry complex, and reportedly passes on its „sophisticated
capability“ to hundreds of Burmese „secret police“ at an institution inside Singapore.
Burma has no external enemies, but the ruling junta goes to extremes to terrorize the population through its
elaborate intelligence network. Intelligence officials have already used their newly-acquired talents from the
cyber-war center to arrest pro-democracy activists, and it is well known that Burma’s feared military
intelligence often tortures its victims during lengthy interrogations.
Singaporean companies have also helped suppress dissent in Burma by supplying the military with arms to use
against its own people. The first shipment of guns and ammunition was delivered on October 6, 1988.

Throughout the month, hundreds of boxes of mortars, ammunition, and other supplies marked „Allied
Ordnance, Singapore“ were unloaded from vessels in Rangoon. Allied Ordnance is a subsidiary of Chartered
Industries of Singapore, the arms branch of Singapore Technologies – the same government-owned company
which built the cyber-war center. The shipments also included rockets made by Chartered Industries of
Singapore under license from a Swedish company and sold in violation of an agreement with Sweden
requiring authorization for re-exports.

These shipments from Singapore arrived only weeks after the 1988 military takeover in Rangoon, in which
the new leaders of the SLORC massacred hundreds of peaceful, pro-democracy demonstrators in the street.
These killings followed another wave of government massacres earlier that summer, when longtime dictator
Ne Win struggled to keep power in the face of nationwide strikes and demonstrations for democracy. He
eventually stepped down but, operating behind the scenes, installed the puppet SLORC. As the killings
continued, thousands of civilians fled the country fearing for their lives. When numerous countries responded
by suspending aid and Burma’s traditional suppliers cut shipments, the SLORC became desperate. Singapore
was the first country to come to its rescue.
Singapore companies have continued to supply Burma’s military, sometimes acting as middlemen for arms
from other countries. In 1989, Israel and Belgium delivered grenade launchers and anti-tank guns via
Singapore. In 1992, Singapore violated the European Commission arms embargo on the Burmese regime by
acting as a broker and arranging for a $1.5 million shipment of mortars from Portugal.
„It is highly unlikely that any of these shipments to Burma could have been made without the knowledge and
support of the Singapore Government,“ wrote William Ashton in Jane’s Intelligence Review. „By assisting
with weapons sales, defense technology transfers, military training and intelligence cooperation, Singapore
has been able to win a sympathetic hearing at the very heart of Burma’s official councils.“

Singapore’s Stakes
LAST November, Singapore deployed its diplomatic arsenal to defend Rangoon at the UN. Singaporean UN
representatives made an effort to water down the General Assembly resolution which castigated the Burmese
government for its harsh treatment of pro-democracy activists, widespread human rights violations, and
nullification of free and fair elections that had voted it out of power. In an „urgent“ letter to the Swedish
mission, which was drafting the resolution, Singapore representative Bilahari Kausikan cited „progress“ in
Burma and said that „the majority of your co-sponsors have little or no substantive interests in Myanmar.
…Our position is different. We have concrete and immediate stakes.“
Objecting to parts of the resolution and attempting to soften the language, Singapore’s representative
circulated the letter to key members of the UN’s Third Committee on Human Rights „The driving force was
definitely business connections,“ according to Dr. Thaung Htun, Representative for UN Affairs of Burma’s
government-in-exile. „Singapore is defending its investments at the diplomatic level, using its efforts at the
UN level to promote its business interests.“

The protection of Singapore’s „concrete and immediate stakes“ is essential to the ruling party’s success in
maintaining power and the basis of its support for Burma, said Case Western Reserve University economist
Christopher Lingle. „Singapore depends heavily upon its symbiotic relationship with crony capitalists and
upon accommodating a high enough rate of return to keep the citizenry in line. Therefore its very survival is
tied up with business and government investments.“
William Ashton, writing in Jane’s Intelligence Review, suggested an additional incentive for Singapore’s
alliance with Burma. As Rangoon’s major regional backer and strategic ally, China has provided much of the
weaponry, training, and financial assistance for the junta. China’s expanding commercial and strategic
interests in the Asia-Pacific region, coupled with its alliance with neighboring Burma, is a source of great

concern in Singapore. The desire to keep Burma from becoming Beijing’s stalking horse in the region may
provide another motivation for Singapore’s wooing of Rangoon.

Turning a Blind Eye
THE Singapore government has consistently disregarded the gross human rights violations perpetrated by its
allies in Burma. The UN Special Rapporteur, appointed to report to the United Nations on the situation in
Burma, has been barred entry into Burma since 1995. The new US State Department Country report on
Burma for 1997 states that its „longstanding severe repression of human rights continued during the year.
Citizens continued to live subject at any time and without appeal to the arbitrary and sometimes brutal
dictates of the military dictatorship.“ Amnesty International reports that there are well over 1,200 political
prisoners languishing in Burmese dungeons where torture is commonplace.

Singapore has issued no urgent letters about a recent report by Danish Doctors for Human Rights which noted
that „sixty-six percent of [the over 120,000] refugees from Burma now living in Thailand have been tortured“
and subjected to „forced labor, deportation, pillaging, destruction of villages, and various forms of torture and
rape.“ The doctors reported that refugees witnessed the junta’s military forces murder members of their
families.
Singaporean leaders also seem unconcerned about the fact that the Burmese government shut down almost all
of Burma’s colleges and universities following student protests in December of 1996 and imprisoned hundreds
of students. At a February ceremony of the Singapore Association in Myanmar, the Ambassador to Singapore
presented a large check to Gen. Khin Nyunt – who is also Chairman of the government Education Committee
– for the „Myanmar education development fund.“ While depriving young Burmese of higher education, the
junta’s „Secretary 1″ Khin Nyunt responded that „Uplifting the educational standards of our people is one of
the social objectives of our Government.“ He then went on at length to extol the „firm foundation of growing
economic and trade ties“ between Singapore and Burma.

The Burmese government has also kept computers and communication technology away from students and
others in opposition to the regime. All computers, software, email services and other telecommunication
devices – which hardly anyone can afford anyway – must be licensed, but licences are almost impossible to
obtain. Yet Singapore has made the best computer technology available to the ruling elite and their business
partners. Singapore Telecom, the largest company in Asia outside of Japan, was the first to provide Burmese
businesses and government offices with the ability to set up inter-and intra-corporate communications in more
than 90 countries.

Complimentary Relations
SINGAPORE’Ss concerns are dramatically different from those of countries sharing a border with Burma.
Thailand has to deal with the deadly narcotics trade and an overwhelming number of refugees arriving on a
daily basis. Banphot Piamdi, the Thai counter-narcotics official, believes Thailand made a big mistake when it
voted for Burma’s entry into the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (asean), given Burma’s lack of
cooperation in fighting drugs. Not surprisingly, the Singapore government lobbied hard for Burma’s 1997
acceptance into the powerful regional trade alliance.

Ironically, Burma’s inclusion in asean may force member nations, including Singapore, to address the havoc
that their newest ally is imposing on the region – especially since Burma provides approximately 90 percent of
the total production of Southeast Asian opium. China and India, Burma’s other neighbors, now face severe
aids epidemics related to increased heroin use in their bordering provinces. Most of the heroin exported from
Burma to the West passes through China’s Yunnan province, which now has more than half a million addicts.
And even Singapore – whose heroin supply comes mostly from Burma – had a 41 percent rise in HIV cases in
1997.

As we head into the „Asian century,“ Singapore has become Washington’s forward partner in the unfolding
era of East-West trade. Ambassador Green called the country „a major entry port and a natural gateway to
Asia for American firms.“ US companies exported $16 billion worth of goods to Singapore in 1996 and more
than 1,300 US firms now operate in the country. Singapore’s strategic and economic importance to the US
cannot be overstated. The two countries just reached an agreement allowing the US Navy to use a Singapore
base even though the deal violates asean’s 1997 nuclear-weapons-free zone agreement.

The US has condemned the Burmese junta’s record of human rights abuses and support for the drug trade, but
has turned a blind eye when it comes to Singapore’s dealings with the regime. Although President Clinton
imposed economic sanctions on Burma partly for it’s role in providing pure and cheap heroin to America’s
youth, he has not commented on Singapore’s willingness to play ball with the world’s biggest heroin
traffickers. Ambassador Green told Congress last year that the US „has an important role in working with the
Singapore government to deal with illegal drug and weapons proliferation issues,“ but most US officials have
remianed silent about Singapore’s investments with Lo Hsing Han and Burma’s narco-dictatorship. It’s
unlikely Clinton made any mention of this issue last fall while golfing with Singaporean Prime Minister Goh
Chok Tong during the apec summit in Vancouver.

Unless the financial crisis in Asia limits profits, Singapore will probably continue to expand its investments in
Burma. „Our two economies are complementary and although we can derive satisfaction from the progress
made, I believe that there still remains a great potential that is yet to be exploited,“ said the junta’s Gen. Khin
Nyunt last February. Aided by Singapore’s support, Burma’s thriving heroin trade has plagued the majority of
countries around the globe. While these countries blithely pour money into drug-connected companies based
in Burma and thereby help them to expand into foreign markets, an abundance of the world’s finest heroin
continues to plague their citizens. At the same time, the line between legitimate and illegitimate investments
grows dimmer in the global economy.„SINGAPORE’S economic linkage with Burma is one of the most vital factors for the survival of Burma’s
military regime,“ says Professor Mya Maung, a Burmese economist based in Boston. This link, he continues,
is also central to „the expansion of the heroin trade.“ Singapore has acieved the distinction of being the
Burmese junta’s number one business partner – both largest trading partner and largest foreign investor. More
than half these investments, totaling upwards of $1.3 billion, are in partnership with Burma’s infamous heroin
kingpin Lo Hsing Han who now controls a substantial portion of the world’s opium trade. The close political,
economic and military relationship between the two countries facilitates the weaving of millions of narcodollars
into the legitimate world economy.

Singapore has become a major player in Asian commerce. According to Steven Green, US Ambassador to
Singapore, free market policies have „allowed this small country to develop one of the world’s most successful
trading and investment economies.“ Singapore also has a strong role in the powerful 132-member country
World Trade Organization. Indeed, the tiny China Sea island of three and a half million people is known far
and wide as the blue chip of the region – a financial trading base and a route for the vast sums of money that
flow in and out of Asia.

If the brutal Burmese dictatorship’s international pariah status is of any concern to its more powerful partner,
Singapore shows no sign of it. Following the March 24 visit of Singapore’s Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong to
Rangoon, a Singapore spokesperson proclaimed, „Singapore and Myanmar should continue to explore areas
where they can complement each other.“ As both countries continue to celebrate their „complementary“
relationship, the international community must take note of the powerful support this relationship provides
both to Burma’s illegitimate regime and to its booming billion dollar drug trade.

Drugs ‘R’ Us
THE Burmese military dictatorship – known by the acronym slorc for State Law and Order Restoration
Council until it changed its name to the State Peace and Development Council (spdc) last November –
depends on the resources of Burma’s drug barons for its financial survival. Since it seized power in 1988,
opium production has doubled, equaling all legal exports and making the country the world’s biggest heroin
supplier. Burma now supplies the US with 60 percent of its heroin imports and has recently become a major
regional producer of methamphetamines. With 50 percent of the economy unaccounted for, drug traffickers,
businessmen and government officials are able to integrate spectacular profits throughout Burma’s permanent
economy.

Both the Burmese generals and drug lords have been able to take advantage of Singapore’s liberal banking
laws and money laundering opportunities. In 1991, for eaxample, the slorc laundered $400 million through a
Singapore bank which it used as a down payment for Chinese arms. Despite the large sum, Burma’s foreign
exchange reserves registered no change either before or after the sale. With no laws to prevent money
laundering, Singapore is widely reported to be a financial haven for Burma’s elite, including its two most
notorious traffickers, Lo Hsing Han and Khun Sa (also known by his Chinese name Chang Qifu).
SLORC cut a deal with Khun Sa for his „surrender“ in early 1996, allowing him protection and business
opportunities in exchange for retirement from the drug trade.

Khun Sa now bills himself as „a commercial real estate agent who also has a foot in the Burmese construction
industry.“ Already in control of a bus route into the northern poppy growing region where the military is
actively involved in the drug business, he is now investing $250 million in a new highway between Rangoon
and Mandalay, an spdc cabinet member confirmed. „The Burmese government says one thing but does
another,“ according to Banphot Piamdi, director of Thailand’s Northern Region’s Narcotics Suppression
Center. „It claims to have subdued Khun Sa’s group…However the fact is that the group under the supervision
of…Khun Sa’s son has received permission from Rangoon to produce narcotics in the areas along the
Thai-Burmese border.“

Khun Sa’s son is not the only trafficker reaping benefits in the Shan State area which borders Thailand and
China and serves as Burma’s primary poppy growing area. Field intelligence and ethnic militia sources
consistently report a pattern of Burmese military involvement with drug production in these remote areas.
Government troops offer protection to the heroin and amphetamine refineries in the area in exchange for
payoffs and gifts, such as Toyota sedans, pistols and army uniforms. The only access to the refineries is
through permits issued by Burmese military intelligence – without this, the heavily guarded areas surrounding
the refineries are too dangerous to approach. The military is also involved in protecting the transport of
narcotics throughout the region, which the authorities have sealed off from the outside world.
„There are persistent and reliable reports that officials, particularly army personnel posted in outlying areas,
are involved in the drug business,“ confirms the March 1998 US government narcotics report. „Army
personnel wield considerable political clout locally, and their involvement in trafficking is a significant
problem.“ Intelligence sources, working for ethnic leaders combating both the drug trade and the military
dictatorship, report that the pattern of government involvement extends all the way to the top. The central
government in Rangoon demands funds on a regular basis from regional commanders who, in turn, expect
payoffs from the rank and file. The soldiers get the money any way they can – through smuggling, gambling or
selling jade – with drugs being the most accessible source of revenue in Shan State. The officers in the field
also „tax“ refineries, drug transporters, and opium farmers.

At great risk, the intellignce sources – who go undercover to infiltrate troops in the field — collect
painstakingly detailed data including names, dates and places, such as these delivered in March 1998 from
Shan State: „On 10th Jan. 98, spdc army no. 65 stationed at Mong Ton sent 40 troops to Nam Hkek village,
Pon Pa Khem village tract, collected 0.16 kilo of opium per household or [collected payment of] Baht 600.
Then the troops sold the collected opium to the drug business men at the rate of Baht 6000 for 1.6 kilos „
Another report states: „Troops from spdc Battalion nos. 277 & 65 stationed at Mong Ton are still protecting
heroin refineries situated at Hkai lon, Pay lon & Ho ya areas, Mong Ton township. Those who can pay
B.200,00 per month are allowed to run the heroin refineries.“ And: „On 3rd of Jan. 98, Burma Army no. 99
collected opium tax in Lashio township. They charged 0.32 kilo per household. They arrested and beat
seriously those who failed to give.“

These sources also report that Ko Tat, Private 90900 from spdc battalion no. 525 stationed in Lin Kay,
recently defected from the Burmese army and said that his company had been giving protection to the opium
fields around Ho Mong. While the lower ranked officers struggle to meet their quotas in the field, the highest
levels of the goverment in the capital city strike deals with Burma’s two top traffickers, one of whom is the
prosperous partner of Singapore.
Lo Hsing Han: At Home in Singapore
WITH massive financial ties to Singapore, Lo Hsing Han is now one of Burma’s top investors. He, along with
Khun Sa, the former „king of opium,“ is a major player in the Burmese economy.
In the early 1990s, Lo Hsing Han controlled the most heavily armed drug-trafficking organization in Southeast

Asia. He was arrested in 1973 and sentenced to death, but was freed under a general amnesty in 1980. Now,

like Khun Sa, he wears the public persona of a successful businessman in Rangoon – where no one does
business without close government cooperation. Although he still overseas rural drug operations with the
status of a godfather, according to US narcotics officials, the notorious Lo currently serves as an advisor on
ethnic affairs to Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt, the military intelligence chief and the junta’s powerful „Secretary 1.“
Lo Hsing Han is the chair of Burma’s biggest conglomerate, Asia World, founded in 1992. His son, Steven
Law, is managing director and also runs three companies in Singapore which are „overseas branches“ of Asia
World. Although Singapore is proud of its mandatory death penalty for small-time narcotics smugglers and
heroin addicts, both father and son travel freely in and out of the friendly island nation. „The family money is
offshore,“ said a high level US narcotics official. „The old man is a convicted drug trafficker, so his kid is
handling the financial activities.“

In 1996, when Law married his Singaporean business partner in a lavish, well-publicized Rangoon wedding,
guests from Singapore were flown in on two chartered planes. According to a high-level US government
official familiar with the situation, Law’s wife Cecilia Ng operates an underground banking system, and „is a
contact for people in Burma to get their drug money into Singapore, because she has a connection to the
government.“ The official said that she spends half her time in Rangoon, half in Singapore; when in Rangoon,
she is headquartered at Asia Lite, a subsidiary of Asia World. The husband-wife team are also the sole
officers and shareholders of Asia World subsidiary, Kokang Singapore Pte Ltd. Founded in Singapore in 1993
with $4.6 million, the company „engages in general trading activities in goods/products of all
kinds/descriptions.“

Singapore’s ventures with Asia World include both government and private investments. Kuok Singapore
Ltd., a partner with Asia World in many ventures, was Burma’s largest single real estate investor as of late
1996, with over $650 million invested. Other Singaporean companies are mentioned in Asia World’s company
reports. Sinmardev, another major Singaporean project linked to Lo’s company, is a $207 million industrial
park and port on the outskirts of Rangoon, which broke ground in 1997. Singaporean entrepreneur Albert
Hong, head of Sinmardev, described the project as the largest foreign investment in Burma outside the energy
field. The Singaporean consortium leads the joint venture along with the Burmese junta, Lo’s Asia World, and
a slew of international shareholders.

Kuok Singapore Ltd., Lo Hsing Han’s Asia World, and the Burmese junta are also partners in the luxury
Traders Hotel. The hotel’s November 1996 opening ceremony was attended by the Singapore ambassador, the
president of Kuok Singapore, and briefly by Lo Hsing Han himself. The presiding Burmese minister publicly
thanked Steven Law and the government of Singapore „without whose support and encouragement there
would be very few Singaporean businessmen in our country.“
While government and business connections in Burma and Singapore have boosted Asia World’s prospects,
other factors have contributed to the company’s extraordinary growth. In the last six years, Asia World has
expanded from a modest trading company to become Burma’s largest and fastest-growing private sector
enterprise with interests in trading, manufacturing, property, industrial investment, development, construction,
transportation, import and distribution, and infrastructure. „How is it that a company that has a humble
beginning trading beans and pulses is suddenly involved in $200 million projects?“ a US government official
said, requesting anonymity. „Where did all that start-up capital come from?“

The US government ventured a guess in 1996: it denied Asia World’s CEO Steven Law a visa to the US „on
suspicion of drug trafficking.“ Asia World’s operations now include a deepwater port in Rangoon, the Leo
Express bus line into Northern Burma, and a $33 million toll highway from the heart of Burma’s poppygrowing
region to the China border. On December 20, the conglomerate opened a wharf with freight handling,
storage, and a customs yard for ships carrying up to 15,000 tons. „If you’re in the dope business, these are the
types of things that you’ve got to have to be able to move your product,“ said a high level US narcotics
official. „They have set up institutions to facilitate the movement of drugs. And in all probability, they are

using laundered drug proceeds, or funds generated from investments of drug trafficking proceeds, to build this
infrastructure,“ he added.

The activities of Lo’s company Asia World have triggered an international narcotics investigation lead by
Washington. US investigators allege that Asia World’s relationship to Singapore paves the way for the
narcotics trade to be woven into all legitimate investments between the two countries. „Singapore’s
investments in Burma are opening doors for the drug traffickers, giving them access to banks and financial
systems,“ said one government official familiar with the situation.
One Stop Shopping: Intelligence to Repression
THE Burmese junta’s control of its impoverished population through crude methods such as torture, forced
labor, and mass killings leaves it open to international condemnation. In contrast, Singapore takes a more
sophisticated approach to repression, both at home and abroad. While the island-nation’s citizens have
material benefits and the appearance of rule of law, they live in fear of an Orwellian government that closely
monitors every aspect of their lives. The ruling party often sues those who dare to oppose it on trumped up
defamation charges, forcing many into bankruptcy or exile.

The FBI is investigating complaints by US citizens of harassment by Singapore’s Internal Security Department
(ISD). One California academic, a widely respected specialist on Southeast Asian affairs who asked not to be
identified, says ISD agents broke into his home because he was working to bring leading Singaporean
opposition figure Tang Liang Hong to an American university. The operatives tore out his door handle to get
in, then searched his computer and desk. A week later, an Asian man, waiting in a tree, photographed and
videotaped the academic while he walked in the park. After temporarily blinding the academic with his bright
flash, the man jumped from the tree and made a getaway in his car. Tang – who is facing a $4.5 million
defamation lawsuit by Singaporean senior ministers – was not surprised by the burglary. „I’ve been followed
everywhere, whether I was in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Australia or in London,“ he said in a phone interview
from Australia.

Singapore has been more than willing to share its expertise in intelligence with its Burmese counterparts. The
Singapore-Myanmar Ministerial-Level Work Committee was set up in 1993 in Rangoon to „forge mutual
benefits in investment, trade and economic sectors.“ The committee includes intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Khin
Nyunt, other top Burmese ministers, and high-level Singaporean officials. At the December 23 meeting, Khin
Nyunt urged his ministers to give priority to projects arranged by the Singaporean Government. „Pilot projects
are being implemented to transfer know how to Myanmar,“ said Khin Nyunt in his address.
One such project is a state-of-the-art cyber-war center in Rangoon. Burma’s military leaders can now
intercept a range of incoming communications – including telephone calls, faxes, emails and computer data
transmissions – from 20 other countries.

The high-tech cyber-war center was built by Singapore Technologies, the city-state’s largest industrial and
technology conglomerate, comprising more than 100 companies. This government-owned company also
provides on-site training at Burma’s Defense Ministry complex, and reportedly passes on its „sophisticated
capability“ to hundreds of Burmese „secret police“ at an institution inside Singapore.
Burma has no external enemies, but the ruling junta goes to extremes to terrorize the population through its
elaborate intelligence network. Intelligence officials have already used their newly-acquired talents from the
cyber-war center to arrest pro-democracy activists, and it is well known that Burma’s feared military
intelligence often tortures its victims during lengthy interrogations.
Singaporean companies have also helped suppress dissent in Burma by supplying the military with arms to use
against its own people. The first shipment of guns and ammunition was delivered on October 6, 1988.

Throughout the month, hundreds of boxes of mortars, ammunition, and other supplies marked „Allied
Ordnance, Singapore“ were unloaded from vessels in Rangoon. Allied Ordnance is a subsidiary of Chartered
Industries of Singapore, the arms branch of Singapore Technologies – the same government-owned company
which built the cyber-war center. The shipments also included rockets made by Chartered Industries of
Singapore under license from a Swedish company and sold in violation of an agreement with Sweden
requiring authorization for re-exports.

These shipments from Singapore arrived only weeks after the 1988 military takeover in Rangoon, in which
the new leaders of the SLORC massacred hundreds of peaceful, pro-democracy demonstrators in the street.
These killings followed another wave of government massacres earlier that summer, when longtime dictator
Ne Win struggled to keep power in the face of nationwide strikes and demonstrations for democracy. He
eventually stepped down but, operating behind the scenes, installed the puppet SLORC. As the killings
continued, thousands of civilians fled the country fearing for their lives. When numerous countries responded
by suspending aid and Burma’s traditional suppliers cut shipments, the SLORC became desperate. Singapore
was the first country to come to its rescue.
Singapore companies have continued to supply Burma’s military, sometimes acting as middlemen for arms
from other countries. In 1989, Israel and Belgium delivered grenade launchers and anti-tank guns via
Singapore. In 1992, Singapore violated the European Commission arms embargo on the Burmese regime by
acting as a broker and arranging for a $1.5 million shipment of mortars from Portugal.
„It is highly unlikely that any of these shipments to Burma could have been made without the knowledge and
support of the Singapore Government,“ wrote William Ashton in Jane’s Intelligence Review. „By assisting
with weapons sales, defense technology transfers, military training and intelligence cooperation, Singapore
has been able to win a sympathetic hearing at the very heart of Burma’s official councils.“

Singapore’s Stakes
LAST November, Singapore deployed its diplomatic arsenal to defend Rangoon at the UN. Singaporean UN
representatives made an effort to water down the General Assembly resolution which castigated the Burmese
government for its harsh treatment of pro-democracy activists, widespread human rights violations, and
nullification of free and fair elections that had voted it out of power. In an „urgent“ letter to the Swedish
mission, which was drafting the resolution, Singapore representative Bilahari Kausikan cited „progress“ in
Burma and said that „the majority of your co-sponsors have little or no substantive interests in Myanmar.
…Our position is different. We have concrete and immediate stakes.“
Objecting to parts of the resolution and attempting to soften the language, Singapore’s representative
circulated the letter to key members of the UN’s Third Committee on Human Rights „The driving force was
definitely business connections,“ according to Dr. Thaung Htun, Representative for UN Affairs of Burma’s
government-in-exile. „Singapore is defending its investments at the diplomatic level, using its efforts at the
UN level to promote its business interests.“

The protection of Singapore’s „concrete and immediate stakes“ is essential to the ruling party’s success in
maintaining power and the basis of its support for Burma, said Case Western Reserve University economist
Christopher Lingle. „Singapore depends heavily upon its symbiotic relationship with crony capitalists and
upon accommodating a high enough rate of return to keep the citizenry in line. Therefore its very survival is
tied up with business and government investments.“
William Ashton, writing in Jane’s Intelligence Review, suggested an additional incentive for Singapore’s
alliance with Burma. As Rangoon’s major regional backer and strategic ally, China has provided much of the
weaponry, training, and financial assistance for the junta. China’s expanding commercial and strategic
interests in the Asia-Pacific region, coupled with its alliance with neighboring Burma, is a source of great

concern in Singapore. The desire to keep Burma from becoming Beijing’s stalking horse in the region may
provide another motivation for Singapore’s wooing of Rangoon.

Turning a Blind Eye
THE Singapore government has consistently disregarded the gross human rights violations perpetrated by its
allies in Burma. The UN Special Rapporteur, appointed to report to the United Nations on the situation in
Burma, has been barred entry into Burma since 1995. The new US State Department Country report on
Burma for 1997 states that its „longstanding severe repression of human rights continued during the year.
Citizens continued to live subject at any time and without appeal to the arbitrary and sometimes brutal
dictates of the military dictatorship.“ Amnesty International reports that there are well over 1,200 political
prisoners languishing in Burmese dungeons where torture is commonplace.

Singapore has issued no urgent letters about a recent report by Danish Doctors for Human Rights which noted
that „sixty-six percent of [the over 120,000] refugees from Burma now living in Thailand have been tortured“
and subjected to „forced labor, deportation, pillaging, destruction of villages, and various forms of torture and
rape.“ The doctors reported that refugees witnessed the junta’s military forces murder members of their
families.
Singaporean leaders also seem unconcerned about the fact that the Burmese government shut down almost all
of Burma’s colleges and universities following student protests in December of 1996 and imprisoned hundreds
of students. At a February ceremony of the Singapore Association in Myanmar, the Ambassador to Singapore
presented a large check to Gen. Khin Nyunt – who is also Chairman of the government Education Committee
– for the „Myanmar education development fund.“ While depriving young Burmese of higher education, the
junta’s „Secretary 1″ Khin Nyunt responded that „Uplifting the educational standards of our people is one of
the social objectives of our Government.“ He then went on at length to extol the „firm foundation of growing
economic and trade ties“ between Singapore and Burma.

The Burmese government has also kept computers and communication technology away from students and
others in opposition to the regime. All computers, software, email services and other telecommunication
devices – which hardly anyone can afford anyway – must be licensed, but licences are almost impossible to
obtain. Yet Singapore has made the best computer technology available to the ruling elite and their business
partners. Singapore Telecom, the largest company in Asia outside of Japan, was the first to provide Burmese
businesses and government offices with the ability to set up inter-and intra-corporate communications in more
than 90 countries.

Complimentary Relations
SINGAPORE’Ss concerns are dramatically different from those of countries sharing a border with Burma.
Thailand has to deal with the deadly narcotics trade and an overwhelming number of refugees arriving on a
daily basis. Banphot Piamdi, the Thai counter-narcotics official, believes Thailand made a big mistake when it
voted for Burma’s entry into the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (asean), given Burma’s lack of
cooperation in fighting drugs. Not surprisingly, the Singapore government lobbied hard for Burma’s 1997
acceptance into the powerful regional trade alliance.

Ironically, Burma’s inclusion in asean may force member nations, including Singapore, to address the havoc
that their newest ally is imposing on the region – especially since Burma provides approximately 90 percent of
the total production of Southeast Asian opium. China and India, Burma’s other neighbors, now face severe
aids epidemics related to increased heroin use in their bordering provinces. Most of the heroin exported from
Burma to the West passes through China’s Yunnan province, which now has more than half a million addicts.
And even Singapore – whose heroin supply comes mostly from Burma – had a 41 percent rise in HIV cases in
1997.

As we head into the „Asian century,“ Singapore has become Washington’s forward partner in the unfolding
era of East-West trade. Ambassador Green called the country „a major entry port and a natural gateway to
Asia for American firms.“ US companies exported $16 billion worth of goods to Singapore in 1996 and more
than 1,300 US firms now operate in the country. Singapore’s strategic and economic importance to the US
cannot be overstated. The two countries just reached an agreement allowing the US Navy to use a Singapore
base even though the deal violates asean’s 1997 nuclear-weapons-free zone agreement.

The US has condemned the Burmese junta’s record of human rights abuses and support for the drug trade, but
has turned a blind eye when it comes to Singapore’s dealings with the regime. Although President Clinton
imposed economic sanctions on Burma partly for it’s role in providing pure and cheap heroin to America’s
youth, he has not commented on Singapore’s willingness to play ball with the world’s biggest heroin
traffickers. Ambassador Green told Congress last year that the US „has an important role in working with the
Singapore government to deal with illegal drug and weapons proliferation issues,“ but most US officials have
remianed silent about Singapore’s investments with Lo Hsing Han and Burma’s narco-dictatorship. It’s
unlikely Clinton made any mention of this issue last fall while golfing with Singaporean Prime Minister Goh
Chok Tong during the apec summit in Vancouver.

Unless the financial crisis in Asia limits profits, Singapore will probably continue to expand its investments in
Burma. „Our two economies are complementary and although we can derive satisfaction from the progress
made, I believe that there still remains a great potential that is yet to be exploited,“ said the junta’s Gen. Khin
Nyunt last February. Aided by Singapore’s support, Burma’s thriving heroin trade has plagued the majority of
countries around the globe. While these countries blithely pour money into drug-connected companies based
in Burma and thereby help them to expand into foreign markets, an abundance of the world’s finest heroin
continues to plague their citizens. At the same time, the line between legitimate and illegitimate investments
grows dimmer in the global economy.