Second-day session of 24th Meeting of Heads of National Drug Law
Agencies of Asia and the Pacific Region (HONLEA) continues


The second-day session of 24th Meeting of Heads of National Drug Law Enforcement Agencies of Asia and the Pacific Region (HONLEA), continued at the Hotel Equatoria on 15 November,2000.

Present at the Meeting were officials of South Pacific Island Countries Association and heads of delegations of Australia, Azerbaijan, People's Republic of China, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Macao Special Administrative Region, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

The Meeting Chairman the leader of Myanmar delegation Secretary of the Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control of Myanmar delegation Secretary of the Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control of Myanmar Director Gentral of the Myanmar Police Force Police Maj. Gen. Soe Win delivered a speech.

Drug Control Officer of UNDCP Mr. Lan Munro explained the agenda of the second-day meeting.

Joint Secretary of CCDAC Pol. Col. Khan Awng reported to the meeting on Myanmar's national anti-narcotic drug activities with audio visual aids. He also answered questions raised by the participants.

Heads of the delegates to the 24th Meeting of Heads of National Drug Law Enforcement Agencies, Asia and the Pacific Region held group-wise discussions on illicit trafficking of heroin, consumption rate, effectiveness of anti-drug strategic electronic systems, control of stimulant pills and trafficking of drugs along the sea lanes.


Heroin Trafficking and Abuse In the Region

A Presentation by Police Colonel Hkam Awng,
Joint Secretary of CCDAC, Myanmar

In this Working Group discussion, I would like to introduce the subject by making mypresentation in the following framework; -

1. Observation of trends and operational response to counter illicit traffic

2. Reported seizures on the decrease and the reasons behind the decrease and factors contributing to decrease

3. Growing demand for ATS impact upon drug abuse patterns

4. Changes in heroin trafficking within territories and changes response measures targeted at heroin

Yesterday, colleagues from UNDCP, Mr. Ian Munro and Mr.Yngve Danling and ICPO Liaison Officer for Southeast Asia, Mr. Romeo Sanga briefed the meeting on regional and world trends on drug trafficking so I shall not be delving much time on international nor regional trends but try to depict the trafficking trends in the context of Myanmar and its neighbouring countries or the sub region.

If we take a look at this slide of the map of Myanmar, you will notice that Myanmar shares borders with 5 neighbouring countries and in that, also very long borders with China, Thailand and India. These border regions are also very rugged, mountainous and remote. I wish to emphasize this because this is where the opium poppy cultivation is going on. Looking at this slide, you can see the actual cultivation or high-density area of poppy, which are all in the northeastern part of the Shan State. If we project the area of cultivation comparing Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam based on figures from UNDCP, we will see a chart like this that shows a declining trend in 1998 and 1999 while in 2000, there seems to be a slight increase. On the next slide, production of opium is also on the decreasing trend. Figures established by the US, ODCCP and our own figures project a slightly different picture on the chart, both on cultivation and production. This disparity stems from the methodology of surveys, where the US figures are based on satellite photos and potential yield, while ours are based on actual ground surveys. We also take into account of the eradication figures, which we do manually every year. (See Charts)

However, all the sources concur on the declining trend although the US stated that the cause of decline is based on bad weather while we based our assessment on the effects of crop substitution, eradication programmes and also bad weather. These 3 slides show the Opium Yield Surveys we undertook jointly with the US Department of Agriculture and International Narcotics Law Enforcement of the State Department nearly every year 1993.

Let us look into the changes in heroin trafficking within territories and changes in the response to measures targeted at heroin.

From the first map on cultivation, over 300,000 hill tribe people on the border areas of China and Thailand are engaged in opium poppy cultivation since a century ago under the British colonialism and it has become a livelihood for them. Independence from the British in 1948 did not decrease the problem because of insurgency all over the country particularly in the border regions and later insurgent groups themselves indulged in drug production in the later stages. The invasion and entrenchment of Kuomintang's (KMT) driven out of China into our eastern borders in the 1950s aggravated the drug problem. These areas under the dominance of insurgency were undeveloped and left behind the mainstream of the country due to continuous fighting up to the late 1980s.

Only in 1989, the Wa and Kokang group split with the BCP and made peace with the government. Subsequently following that major turning point in the history of insurgency in Myanmar, 17 major armed insurgent groups made peace agreements with the central government in the early 1990s. The slide shows the names of insurgent groups and their area of dominance or later becoming special regions. The government enjoyed for the first time access to these areas once denied and has the opportunity to undertake development programmes to upgrade the infrastructure and uplift the living standards of the national brethrens.

In the former years, the government stressed law enforcement activities on drug eradication programmes but later on saw that it needs to be coupled with crop substitution and alternative development programmes in the long run and also sustainability from going back to poppy cultivation. Thus, the government laid down a Strategy designating drugs eradication as a national duty to involve participation of the whole populace and to develop and enhance the standard of living of the national races of the border areas so that they will be weaned gradually from poppy cultivation and dependence on income from opium poppy.

The formation of the Ministry of Border Areas and National Races Development Affairs in 1992 was a major undertaking of the government to implement the abovementioned Strategy. Up to present, the Ministry has invested over 20 billion kyats from the State budget in development programmes in the border areas encompassing 6 million inhabitants.

Another cornerstone changing the history of drugs and its trends is the unconditional surrender of Khun Sa and his Mong Tai Army (MTA) in January 1996. You will see from the slide that the strength, arms and ammunition surrendered was a substantial force that was compromised or neutralised by the government in the fight against drugs.

For your information also, I have prepared this slide to show you the conditions set down for the unconditional surrender;-

1. to unconditionally surrender all their weapons and ammunition.

2. to abide by and in no way deviate from the arrangement made for them by the State.

3. after the surrender not to become involved again with narcotic drugs and its illicit trade in any way.

The dent left behind by Khun Sa and MTA made a deep impact in the production and trafficking routes of drugs on the Myanmar-Thai border and also changed the trends and patterns of drug trafficking. On the other hand, national groups that entered peace arrangement with the government drew up their own development programmes of their respective regions to establish drug free zones. The first to establish and still sustaining is the Eastern Shan State Special Region 4 of Mong Lar since 1997 April. Kokang Region is making all out efforts to follow suit in year 2000 with the Wa Region promising to be free of drugs in year 2005. It cannot be denied nor ignored on the fact that the efforts to get rid of opium poppy cultivation and production by the ethnic races play a key role in the changing trends of drugs trafficking.

Above, I have mentioned 17 of the major armed insurgent groups made peace with the government. However, there had been splinter groups and remnants of SURA led by Ywet Sit, MTA group led by Kyauk Sit Su Hlaing and WNA led by Mahar San who are still deeply involved in drug production and trafficking on the Myanmar- Thai border near the golden triangle area. This slide shows the mobile camps and clandestine refineries of these groups, straddling the common border.

Myanmar has been witnessing a decrease in the report of seizures and now let us look into the reasons behind this or the factors contributing to decrease. These slides show the annual seizures of opium, heroin and amphetamine type stimulants. From the annual figures, it is quite obvious that seizures of opium and heroin have sharply decrease since the peak year of 1997 while ATS figures show a significant increase since the first seizure in 1996. I am not going into numbers as data on seizures are already given in country reports.

As a comparison among countries in the sub region, I would like to show you seizure charts based on UNDCP figures, which I got from Mr. Munro yesterday. ( Slides ) Here also, we can see the general trend of decreasing heroin seizures in Thailand, China and Laos while a slight increase is seen in Hong Kong. ATS seizures on the other hand, are rising in all countries. As an indicator, let us look at this chart, which shows the price of heroin in Myanmar from 1996 to 2000. You will notice the average price of heroin, which were stable around 600,000 kyats per kilo for some years suddenly jumped to 2,000,000 kyats this year. It clearly indicates the scarcity of heroin in the sub-region. Is it because traffickers are stockpiling drugs to get better prices? However, if we crosscheck with Hong Kong, from this chart it shows that the price is more or less stable for the past 5 years. We have to assess whether Hong Kong is still the transit gateway to international market or not.

So what are the contributing factors to decrease of reported seizures? As far as Myanmar is concerned, the trafficking routes have changed considerably since the surrender of Khun Sa leaving a void on the Myanmar - Thai border that no other trafficking syndicate or organization has been able to fill in. Another factor is the increased enforcement and interdiction on both sides of the country that the major portion of heroin produced is now routed through Yunan Province of China. This slide shows the major trafficking 

route of heroin. So it is readily deduced that heroin produced in the clandestine refineries along the borders are directly trafficked outside to international market resulting in the significant drop of domestic seizures in Myanmar in the past 2-3 years. Domestic seizures of heroin are destined for local markets and some on its way to India or to the seaports for trafficking to Malaysia and Singapore by sea.

To continue with operational response to counter illicit traffic, this slide shows the deployment of Anti-drug Units of the Myanmar Police Force. Up to 1988, we have only 8 Drug Units with the support of US training and equipment but in the 1990s we have been able to establish 13 new Drug Units with our own resources, out of which 2 Units, Tachileik and Muse on the Thai and China border were sponsored by UNDCP Projects. The latest Units are Bamaw, Bago and Tadar Oo International Airport. From the locations shown, it may be noticed all the Anti-drug Units are located strategically along the main trafficking routes. All the major seizures are being made by our Anti-drug Units.

Another important factor I would like to draw your attention is on the importance of Precursor Chemicals and its trafficking routes.

This map illustrates the locations of clandestine refineries we have been able to search and destroy during the past 10 years. I trust most drug enforcement officers are aware of how many and how much chemical are needed to make a ton of heroin. This slide shows the type of chemicals essential to make heroin and this slide shows the amount needed. It is interesting that at the clandestine refineries that I have shown in the previous slide, you will see this sort of chemical dumps or pileup that we have been able to seize. (slides)

These chemicals are not produced in Myanmar nor imported legally and diverted. It is all trafficked illicitly from neighbouring countries particularly from China, India and Thailand. These 2 slides show how they are trafficked in the region and into Myanmar. Realising the crucial role precursor chemicals play in the production of drugs, Myanmar formed a Precursor Control Committee in 1998 and have 9 chemicals from the UN Convention already under control. In addition, 12 chemicals are in the process to be controlled as precursors.

The following charts show annual seizures of precursor chemicals in Myanmar and also Myanmar/ China and Myanmar/Thai border respectively. Without precursor chemical, there is no way drugs can be produced. So I would like to stress here the slogan " NO PRECURSOR CHEMICALS- NO DRUGS "

We are very much aware that our neighbouring countries are also tightening stringent controls on precursors and interdicting substantial amount yearly and would like to commend on their success. But still we have to do a lot more than this to curb the diversion of chemicals into the clandestine refineries and laboratories along our common borders. I would like to take this opportunity also to inform the meeting that cross border meetings between counterpart enforcement agencies and field officers have been taking place for understanding and better cooperation. The slide shows the frequency of meetings we already had with our counterparts.

Finally on drug abuse, the 1993 Drug Law prescribes drug addicts must register on a compulsory basis to get treatment and rehabilitation provided by the government. This slide shows the number of drug addicts registered at government institutions and from the breakdown on numbers and type of drugs abused, it indicates the trend is still with opium and heroin with drug while stimulants are not the choice of drugs as yet. However, during the baseline survey conducted yearly, indications are there that stimulants abuse has made an entry on the stage although not taking the centre stage as yet. Because the Drug Law stipulates compulsory registration, unregistered abusers are arrested by the police when caught using drugs. From 1994 to present an accumulative figure of 28,687 persons have been arrested and sentenced according to the law.

In conclusion of my presentation, I would like to reiterate that the drug producing regions of Myanmar are along the porous borders of our neighbouring countries which are also very remote and the terrain very difficult. This makes very difficult access for the government and its enforcement agencies to search and destroy clandestine refineries and laboratories. On the other hand, it creates a haven for drug traffickers as they could have easy access to neighbouring countries where they can purchase precursors as well as paraphernalia and also financing from international organized crime syndicates. Against this scenario, it calls for the closer practical cooperation between law enforcement agencies to overcome the upper hand taken by drug traffickers. And this meeting itself is a testimony that we can work together and we should take this meeting as an advantage as a common ground to find better ways and means to solve the drug problem in the region and in the world community at large.

Thank you for your kind attention.

Photo Gallery