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Drugs and the Burmese Government

Websites/Multiple Documents

Title: Myanmar Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control
Description/subject: Opium yield surveys, seizures, photos of drug burnings etc
Language: English
Source/publisher: SPDC
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 03 June 2003

Individual Documents

Title: Naypyidaw’s drug addiction - The Burma Army’s strategic use of the drug trade in the Golden Triangle and its impact on the Lahu - English, Burmese (ျမန္မာဘာသာ)
Date of publication: 27 October 2016
Description/subject: "With unique access and information from the ground, the Lahu National Development Organisation (LNDO) examines in this report how the Burma Army benefi ts directly from the drug trade in eastern Shan State. The findings show how conflict and drug production in Burma are inextricably linked, and that only a political resolution of the decades- long ethnic conflict will enable Burma’s drug crisis to be addressed. Despite ceasefires, the central government’s refusal to cede to ethnic demands for federalism has caused a steady military build-up by both the Burma Army and ethnic armed groups in eastern Shan State. Over the past ten years, the number of Burma Army troops in seven eastern Shan townships has risen from over 10,000 to over 14,000. Significantly for the drug trade, this includes a substantial increase in the number of Burma Army militia troops—from about 2,300 to 3,400—who serve the vital purpose of maintaining central government control over inaccessible mountainous areas. The Burma Army militia-controlled areas are where most opium in eastern Shan State is being grown, as shown by maps of the United Nations Offce of Drugs and Crime (UNODC). These areas are also where scores of drug refineries that produce large amounts of heroin and methamphetamines (“yaba”) are located. The Burma Army militia groups provide security to the drug syndicates operating the refineries. In the process they make huge profits from buying opium from farmers and selling it to refinery owners, from joint investments in refineries, and from transporting drugs to distributors. These profits not only subsidize the upkeep of the militia forces, but enable militia leaders to gain substantial personal wealth. This is a key incentive to remain loyal to the Burma Army, and to continue their policing duty against ethnic resistance groups..."
Language: English, Burmese (ျမန္မာဘာသာ)
Source/publisher: Lahu National Development Organisation (LNDO)
Format/size: pdf (2.2MB)
Alternate URLs: https://www.lndoess.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Naypyidaw%E2%80%99s-drug-addiction-Burmese.pdf
Date of entry/update: 28 October 2016

Title: Poisoned Hills - Opium cultivation surges under government control in Burma (English)
Date of publication: 26 January 2010
Description/subject: Executive Summary: Community assessments by the Palaung Women's Organisation during the past two years reveal that the amount of opium being cultivated in Burma's northern Shan State has been increasing dramatically. The amounts are far higher than reported in the annual opium surveys of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and are flourishing not in "insurgent and ceasefire areas," as claimed by the UN, but in areas controlled by Burma's military government, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). Between 2007-2009, PWO conducted field surveys in Namkham and Mantong townships, and found that the total area of opium cultivated increased almost fivefold over three years from 964 hectares in the 2006-7 season to 4,545 hectares in the 2008-9 season. Namkham and Mantong are both fully under the control of the SPDC. The areas have an extensive security infrastructure including Burma Army battalions, police, and pro-government village militia. These militia are allowed to engage in illicit income-generating activities in exchange for policing against resistance activity, and are being expanded in the lead up to the regime's planned 2010 elections. Local authorities, in "anti-drug teams" formed by the police in each township, have been systematically extorting fees from villagers in exchange for allowing them to grow opium. During the 2007-8 season in Mantong township, at least 37 million kyat (US$37,000) in bribes in total were collected from 28 villages. PWO data shows that the "anti-drug teams" are leaving the majority of opium fields intact, and are filing false eradication data to the police headquarters. PWO found that only 11% of the poppy fields during the 2008-9 season had been destroyed, mostly only in easily visible places. The fact that authorities are profiting from drug production is enabling drug abuse to flourish. In one village surveyed in Mantong, it was found that that the percentage of men aged 15 and over addicted to opium increased from 57% in 2007 to 85% in 2009. Around the town of Namkham, heroin addicts flock openly to "drug camps," and dealers sell heroin and amphetamines from their houses. PWO's findings thus highlight the structural issues underlying the drug problem in Burma. The regime is pursuing a strategy of increased militarization in the ethnic states to crush ethnic resistance movements, instead of entering into political negotiations with them. For this, it needs an ever growing security apparatus, which in turn is subsidized by the drug trade. The regime's desire to maintain power at all costs is thus taking precedence over its stated aims of drug eradication. Unless the regime's militarization strategies are challenged, international funding will make little difference to the drug problem in Burma. A negotiated resolution of the political issues at the root of Burma's civil war is urgently needed to seriously address the drug scourge which is impacting the region..."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Palaung Women's Organization
Format/size: pdf (3.38MB)
Alternate URLs: http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs08/Poisoned_Hills-PWO-bu-red.pdf (Burmese)
Date of entry/update: 26 January 2010

Title: Alles nur Show Business - Rangoons “Krieg gegen die Drogen” im Shan Staat
Date of publication: 22 June 2007
Description/subject: Die vorliegende Untersuchung entlarvt den angeblichen “Krieg gegen die Drogen”, den Burmas Militärregime im Shan Staat zu führen vorgibt, als eine reine Farce. Er liefert Beweise dafür, dass die Drogenindustrie vielmehr einen integralen Teil der Regimepolitik darstellt, um das Gebiet des Shan Staats ruhigzustellen und zu kontrollieren. "Pseudo"-War against drugs in Shan-State; Neutralitaion of the Shan
Language: German, Deutsch
Source/publisher: Burma Riders
Date of entry/update: 21 August 2007

Title: Hand in Glove - The Burma Army and the drug trade in Shan State
Date of publication: August 2006
Description/subject: "...In a way, this report starts off from where our last report "Show Business: Rangoon's War on Drugs in Shan State" (2003) left off. It describes the unimaginable extent of corruption in Burma, and the live-off-the-land policy of Burmese military units that has forced local authorities to turn a blind eye to drug activities. It also exposes how cultivation of opium poppies has increased, and gives insight into the production and trade of methamphetamines, better known as yaba in Thailand and yama in Shan State. The major difference is that whereas "Show Business" focused mostly on opium and its derivative heroin, Hand in Glove puts the spotlight more on yaba. It also highlights the growing role of pro-Rangoon militia in the drug trade, as the regime has begun openly favouring them over the ceasefire groups..." 1. Military collusion in the drug trade: - Rain leaking from the roof; - Military expansion and "self reliance"... 2. Opium trends: - Poppy upsurge since 2004; - Bumper 2005-2006 crop; - Selective slashing; - Opium output decreasing or increasing?... 3. Churning out the pills: - Factories; - The precursors; - Brands... 4. Shipping out... 5. Militia on the rise: - New faces... 6. Crackdown charades... 7. Drug use in Shan State: - Rehabilitation efforts... 8. Conclusion... Appendix: Burma Army units reported to be involved in the drug trade.
Language: English
Source/publisher: Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N.)
Format/size: pdf (1.9MB)
Alternate URLs: http://www.shanland.org/oldversion/Hand%20in%20Glove.pdf
Date of entry/update: 02 August 2006

Title: SHOW BUSINESS: Rangoon
Date of publication: December 2003
Description/subject: EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: "This investigative report exposes as a charade the Burmese military regime's "War on Drugs" in Shan State. It provides evidence that the drug industry is integral to the regime's political strategy to pacify and control Shan State, and concludes that only political reform can solve Burma's drug problems. In order to maintain control of Shan State without reaching a political settlement with the ethnic peoples, the regime is allowing numerous local ethnic militia and ceasefire organisations to produce drugs in exchange for cooperation with the state. At the same time, it condones involvement of its own personnel in the drug business as a means of subsidizing its army costs at the field level, as well as providing personal financial incentives. These policies have rendered meaningless the junta's recent "anti-drug" campaign, staged mainly in Northern Shan State since 2001. The junta deliberately avoided targeting areas under the control of its main ceasefire and militia allies. The people most affected have been poor opium farmers in "unprotected" areas, who have suffered mass arrest and extrajudicial killing. The anti-drug campaign was not waged at all in Southern Shan State, and in only a few token areas of Eastern Shan State. Opium is continuing to be grown in almost every township of Shan State, with Burmese military personnel involved at all levels of opium production and trafficking, from providing loans to farmers to grow opium, taxation of opium, providing security for refineries, to storage and transportation of heroin. The diversification of drug syndicates into methamphetamine production since the mid-90s has also been with the collusion of Burmese military units. S.H.A.N. has documented the existence of at least 93 heroin and/or methamphetamine refineries in existence this year, run by the regime's military allies, with the complicity of local Burmese military units. Raids on refineries carried out during the regime's "war on drugs" have targeted only smaller players and served to consolidate control of the refineries into the hands of the major drug operators such as the United Wa State Army. High-profile drug-traffickers continue to operate with impunity, many using legal businesses as a front. None have been prosecuted under the new anti-money laundering legislation introduced in 2002. While colluding in and profiting from the drug business, the regime has taken no serious measures to deal with its social impacts. It has failed to implement public health campaigns against drug abuse, leading to growing addiction problems, particularly with methamphetamines, which Shan villagers are now routinely taking as "energy" pills. The lack of state drug treatment centres has led many communities to set up their own. The junta's token attempts at crop substitution, often with international assistance, have also failed miserably, due to poor planning, coercive implementation and complete disregard for the welfare of local populations. Under the so-called "New Destiny" project launched in April 2002, farmers in many townships have been forced to plant a new strain of rice from China, which has failed in each locality. The report also questions the latest figures for opium cultivation given by UNODC in its 2003 Burma opium survey, which show a decrease of 24% since the previous year, and an overall decrease of 62% since 1996. Data collected by S.H.A.N. in Mong Yawng, show that the actual amount of land under opium cultivation in the township during the 2002-2003 growing season was at least four times higher than that listed in the UNODC survey. The UNODC field teams surveyed only along the main roads, collecting data from villagers who were too intimidated to reveal the truth about the extent of poppy growing in the area. Given the regime's use of the drug trade within its political strategy to control Shan State, it is clear that no amount of international aid will succeed in solving the drug problem unless there is political reform. As Shan analysts have reiterated for decades, this can only be achieved through the restoration of genuine peace, democracy and the rule of law in Burma."
Language: English
Source/publisher: The Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N.)
Format/size: html
Alternate URLs: http://www.shanland.org/oldversion/index-3160.htm
Date of entry/update: 12 December 2003

Title: From Pyusawhti to the Present
Date of publication: January 2003
Description/subject: Burma’s history of militias immersed in corruption dates back a long way...In a military effort to contain the southward spread of communism, a convoy of military vehicles relocated Kokang and Wa warlords and landlords from Tangyan to mountain areas closer to the border. The increase in traffic meant that heroin could transit freely in mule caravans from Tangyan to Doilerng under military protection. The genie was out of the bottle. Khun Sa and his army set up a sovereign kingdom of their own in places once haunted by the Kuomintang. With profits from the burgeoning drug trade, Khun Sa could rest easy in his mountain kingdom. It wasn’t until 1973, when the international community begged for something to be done about Burma’s flourishing drug trade, that the junta dissolved the kakweye. But the junta’s response was too little, too late. And though there has been campaign after campaign against armed opposition forces, the Burmese army has never called for a serious military campaign to quell or wipe out drug barons. Why would they? Top military leaders enjoy all kinds of favors and kickbacks from drug traders..." "
Author/creator: Pho Thar Aung
Language: English
Source/publisher: "The Irrawaddy" Vol. 11, No. 1
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 03 June 2003

Date of publication: 10 May 1998
Description/subject: "Burma's military junta is evicting thousands of villagers from previously drug-free areas for refusing to transform their rice fields into poppy plantations as part of a United Nations-backed "drug control" programme. The regime has told its UN sponsors that it is moving villagers away from regions where drugs are being produced and uprooting the poppy fields left behind. However, an investigation by The Sunday Times and two independent human rights organisations, has found that the junta is secretly expanding the number of opium farms in these designated drug control areas. Video footage of burning poppy fields presented to the UN in support of funding applications for schemes worth millions of pounds has been faked."
Author/creator: Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark
Language: English
Source/publisher: "The Sunday Times"
Format/size: html (10K)
Date of entry/update: 30 January 2007

Title: BRIEF INTERVIEWS REGARDING OPIUM: Testimony of two escaped porters from Shan State
Date of publication: 01 February 1993
Description/subject: "Testimony of two escaped porters from Shan State"
Language: English
Source/publisher: Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG) Regional & Thematic Reports
Format/size: html
Alternate URLs: http://www.khrg.org/khrg93/93_02_01a.html
Date of entry/update: 03 June 2003