Those Impeding Eradication of Narcotic

Part I

An uncle of mine, who had joined a non-governmental organization (NGO) after retirement from Government Service, came to visit me yesterday. This uncle loathed all kinds of addiction betel chewing, tobacco, alcohol and narcotic drugs. After retirement he turned to religious meditation on the one hand and on the other joined the Myanmar Anti-Narcotic Association (MANA) as an active member as part of his contribution to social service. Other retired individuals like my uncle with common goals and outlook had got together to found this volunteer organization on 26 June 1994 to begin their good work. Within such a short period it has been quite effective in its programme even though it is not yet a well-known organization. Some philanthropists have made considerable donations towards MANA. Likewise, there is the Border Areas Development Association (BDA) established along similar lines. The principal goal of this organization is to achieve opium crop substitution and to work for the development of border areas. Thus in efforts to implement narcotic drug eradication measures, the Government is not alone. Volunteers from among the people have begun to form volunteer associations systematically to actively support and supplement the Governments programmes. The author's uncle who looks at narcotic drugs from the religious as well as the national perspectives therefore makes serious efforts to support the measures undertaken by the Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control (CCDAC) of the Government. So, as a person intensely concerned about narcotic drug abuse, the first thing he said to me was that he had read my articles on the  MTA and started a discussion on the subject.

"Maung Hpo Shoke I must thank you for your articles  on the MTA, for I learnt a lot of details that we know nothing about. But, I think you should continue your research and writ more comprehensive account of the subject. "

"Please go on uncle. " 

"Previously, we had no idea where opium was being refined and who was doing it. Nor did we know for certain were the traffickers and who were reaping most of the profits. Now we know all this from what you have written. But I was wondering hat maybe you should try to give a fuller account of the visits made by foreigners to MAT headquarters. "

"Is it because you still don't yet understand the import these visits?"

"Oh! I understand that very well. It is obvious to us the western bloc nations and their followers are not practicing they preach. They are the ones hollering about the drug kings have indicted him as an international drug criminal. Yet they have established relations with him in secret, and given Eencouragement and support. But the people have come to know very well that these Westerners say one thing but do just opposite. "

"If you realize this much, it's enough I think. One needs to be circumspect and not reveal everything. It's still necessary to  have a card up one's sleeve. When the people, the many organizations, nations and governments who are involved try to make excuses and evade the issue, it's important to have some incontrovertible evidence in reserve. Isn't that so? "

"Yes. When you put it that way. But still, you should continue to write about how our country is fighting the menace on all fronts. Only then, people will come to realize Herculean efforts that are being made. "

"It has occurred to me that I should write more fully on  this. I have also heard the false accusations made without any thought of acknowledging the work being done. Yes I've been thinking we ought to know the reasons why they refuse to give credit where it is due and are instead hurling unfounded charges against us. But I don't know all the facts. Uncle, you have connections with the CCDAC and you are cooperating in some of its progarnmes. So I'm sure you know the full story. "

"If only you would read ' The Endeavours made by the Government to Eradicate Narcotic Drugs in Myanmar ' (up to 1997) published by the CCDAC, you'll get the full picture then.But I suppose there are certain additional details I can fill you in on. So ask what you want. "

"As far as drug abuse control is concerned I have some information of the measures that were undertaken by our ancient kings and what successive Governments did after independence. So could you give me some information on drug control activities after the formation of the CCDAC. "

"The parliamentary (Hluttaw) session held in Octoberl975 passed a resolution to designate as a national task, the fight to effectively control and suppress narcotic drugs which threatened the perpetuation of the nation. On 3rd February 1996 the Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control was formed. That was the beginning of the present committee. In the time of the Government of the State Law and Order Restoration Council this Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control was reorganized on 9 October 1989 and specific tasks were laid down. Then on 7 January 1993 the Anti- Narcotic Drug and Psychotropic Substances Law (Law No. l/93) was promulgated. There are now 12 working subcommittees functioning under the Central Committee. "

"Does the western bloc have the information of all that is being done? "

"Of course they do Myanmar acceded to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs on 29 July 1963; to the 1971 Convention  on Psychotropic Substances on 20 July 1994 and to the 1988  Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drug and Psychotropic  Substances on 9 September 1991. "

"Myanmar has been participating in international programmes  against narcotic drugs, hasn't it? "

"Definitely. It is participating in joint action with the UNDCP.  Then there are the Myanmar/ China/ UNDCP and the Myanmar/  Thailand/ Laos programmes. It has also been taking part in anti - drug  measures as a member of the ASEAN and has cooperated with India,  Bangladesh, Vietnam, Russia, Laos and the Philippines. It has even  conducted Opium Yield Surveys in with the U.S.A several times. "

"Before 1988, America was providing drug control aid and  assistance wasn't it? "

"Right. An agreement had been signed with America and aid  to the value of 88.6 million dollars was provided from 1974 to 1984. "

"But uncle, compared to the enormous amounts given to our  neighbouring countries, that was just a paltry sum. "

"That's true it doesn't even amount to left over change. But  what we did was in the national cause. Military operations were  launched to destroy opium fields. Just consider the number of  operations conducted within the period 1974 to 1979. Operations Mai  Lone, Hnin Pan, Pauk Pan, Taung Hteik Pan and Hay Man Oo all took  place within that duration. Then Operation Nger Yai Pan was launched  in 1979/80 and from 1981 to 1988 it was continued in full force from  phase 1 to phase 8. Then aerial operations were carried out as Operation  Taung Yan Shin from phase 1 to phase 4. Altogether, 199,762.87 acres of  poppy fields were destroyed."

"Wasn't it true that fierce engagements took place between Government Forces and armed insurgents involved in the drug trade."

"Certainly. What was called Moe Hein Military operations was fought in 12 phases from 1976 to 1988. One hundred and nine members of the Armed Forces were killed in action and 572 wounded in these battles. But, 5453 kilos of black opium,159.61 kilosofheroin,344.68 kilos of brownopium,2033 gallons of liquid opium and 15 opium refineries were seized. Two hundred and five insurgents were captured dead and 18 alive together with 259 assorted weapons. "

"But to my knowledge, in spite of the fact that America and the western bloc had withdrawn assistance after 1988, we are still carrying on the fight to eradicate narcotic drugs, aren't we? "

"Oh yes, we are. Even without assistance from any quarter we have never let the momentum of our national task slow down. In fact, you'll see that we have even accelerated our efforts.In 1994, 111 battles took place in the Mong Kyut region and in 1995, 95 battles were fought in the Hpet Tu Mein region. And since the Armed Forces assumed state responsibilities 766 members of the Armed Forces have given their lives and 2292 wounded were and disabled in the national cause of narcotic drug eradication. Poppy fields destroyed annually from 1988 to 1998 nowtotal 91022.33 acres. Moreover, 24808.46 kilos of black opium, 3881.81 kilos of heroin, 185.79 kilos of brown opium,11,093,026 tablets of stimulant drugs and a large amount of marijuana and chemicals have been captured. Eighty - seven heroin refineries have also been put to the torch and destroyed."

"It's pretty obvious isn't it? Greater success was achieved in narcotic drug suppression after 1988 when no aid of any sort was given by anyone, than in the pre- 1988 period when aid was being provided. But no matter how much has been done and achieved, there are still people who wish to point fingers and lay blame. "
"They can say what they want. Our Government will still do and continue doing what needs to be done. For instance, it has held public burning of narcotic drugs seized, in the presence of  foreign guests, diplomats, UN officials and foreign correspondents, 11 times since 1990. The total amount of drugs destroyed consisted of 1961.65 kilos of heroin, 11,912,82 kilos of black opium, 109.69 kilos of opium oil extract, 119.89 kilos of liquid opium and enormous quantities of marijuana, morphine and phensedy1. Narcotic drug burning measures have also been carried out by the former armed national groups themselves in their various regions. "

"Don't the diplomats, foreign correspondents report to their governments all that is being done to combat narcotic drugs? How can it be that their governments have no knowledge of all this? "

"How can the diplomats here be unaware of what the Government is doing? And could they fail to submit reports? No. It's just that they simply want to lay blame on us. Recently, I heard a BBC broadcast quoting the London Sunday Times. It said that the Myanmar authorities have provided funds to the Chin State for the purpose of opium cultivation. It further said that villagers in the Shan State had to grow opium poppy for the Armed Forces. The most blatant of all the lies was a statement by a Dr. Chris Bier in an interview on the BBC on 1st October. He alleged that ,Military Intelligence personnel were involved in transporting heroin from Myanmar across the border. "

"That's really shocking! The Armed Forces is actually the vanguard force in the fight against narcotic drugs, whether it's to destroy opium fields or to take action against drug traffickers, members of the Armed Forces are always in the fore front, putting their lives on the line. Most of the drugs seized have also been through action taken by the Armed Forces."

"The fact, that there are individuals who write in this vein and make false allegations, is actually nothing new nor surprising. Even the official announcement on the narcotic drug situation in Myanmar issued by the U.S. State Department in March 1998 was full of wild and groundless allegations. The announcement said that according to their estimates Myanmar  was able to cultivate 387,875 acres of poppy, which would yield 2365 metric tons of raw opium and 197 metric tons of opium. It also stated that all the armed national groups that had made peace with the Government were carrying on the narcotic drug trade; that the leaders were Pauk Yu Chan, Li Zee Yu, Wai Shauk Chi of the Kohang group; Mon Hsa La of the MDA and U Ma Htu Naw of the KDA . In Special Region No.4 of the eastern Shan State was U Sai Lin and there was also Ywet Sit of the SURA. It alleged that though the Mong La Region had been declared an Opium Free Zone, drug trafficking was still being carried on. And finally that the Myanmar Government was utilizing proceeds from the narcotic drug trade to implement domestic projects and to increase investments for expanding its various economic enterprises. "

"Making such allegations, knowing full well that they are false is downright unscrupulous and immoral. "
"As a matter of fact, the national groups are planning and implementing development projects to be able to establish Opium Free Zones and are adhering to the programme  laid down by the Government. "

"Haven't any of the national groups made rebuttals to these false allegations? "

"Of course they have. I visited these regions not very long ago on official business for my organization and met the leaders who have been so unjustly accused. They are making serious efforts in crop substitution and taking action to control narcotic drugs. So, naturally, they are very upset that not only have their efforts been not recognized, they are being accused so unfairly. When I arrived at the ' Wa ' region one of the leaders told me that it's very easy to establish an Opium Free Zone. They just have to declare that punitive action will be taken against any one who cultivates poppy, and no one would dare to disobey this order. So instead, these peasants will begin to cultivate vegetables like tomatoes and so forth. He then asked, if the Americans would come to this remote region to buy such produce. If so he said, they would see to it that not a single poppy plant be grown. He explained that peasants in the region have been subsisting on opium cultivation for years even though they have not made much profit from it. They have been growing poppy because there's no other alternative. The 'Wa' Leader said they couldn't change things over night but that they are doing everything to bring about change for the better, because they know very well that narcotic drugs are a menace to mankind. But he said quite plainly that they all resented the fact that their efforts had gained no acknowledgement but just abuse and false accusations. "

"What about the Government? Hasn't it made any attempts to refute these charges? "

"It plans to refute these unfounded accusations with hard evidence. So it has implemented the Base Line Data project that will yield systematic countrywide statistical data on poppy cultivation acres as well as the number of addicts in the country. This will also be useful data for future narcotic drug programmes and projects. This project was carried out from 1st January, to 30th June 1998 and the resulting statistics showed that the total area of poppy cultivated was 151,201 acres, and that it would yield 665.28 tons of black opium. This black opium when refined would yield 66.52 tons of heroin. The total number of addicts in the country is said to be 66,463. "

"With whose assistance did we implement this project? "

"Nobody gave any assistance except for a few individual donors. The cost of the entire project was borne by the Government." 

"What about the 15 - year programme for the eradication of narcotic drugs that you told me about? What progress has it made? " 

"This plan has been fully drawn up. It is scheduled to begin in the year 1999-2000 and completed in 2004. The target is to establish a narcotic - drug free State within the 15 year duration of the project. "

"Does it include any form of foreign aid or assistance? "

"There is no foreign aid for it. With foreign aid or assistance we could reduce the duration of the project and achieve our goal sooner. But we have the will and determination to carry this out, with or without foreign aid. "

"I read the statements made by the Executive Director Mr Pino Alacchi of the UNDCP at a press conference held on his visit to Myanmar. He spoke about how he had seen for himself the concrete achievements made by Myanmar in her drug control programmes, the positive results of the efforts made by the national groups in the border areas and acknowledged their sincerity and good will. He said that was why the UNDCP had resolved to. extend every assistance and support towards these projects. I even thought when I read the report of the interview that there were at least some people who saw things in their true light and showed some good will. "

"Of course there are a few right thinking persons but the western bloc is another matter altogether. They will persist in their negative views. "

"That's true too. They still view the exchange of arms for peace by U Khun Sa's MTA, negatively. Actually, the collapse of the MTA, whether brought about by armed force or by peaceful means, its demise was due solely to the diligent efforts of the Government. This was a milestone achievement in the fight to eradicate drugs don't you think? " 

"I certainly do. It was a development that should have  been accorded recognition and greeted with joy. "

"Although they refuse to acknowledge this, the price of heroin at the border rose two and a half times as soon as the MTA had exchanged arms for peace. And the price is still soaring. This shows obviously that the price had risen because the production of heroin had fallen. If the supply were still plentiful the price wouldn't have gone up. No way. "

"Well, whatever our efforts and whatever our successes, the western bloc stubbornly clings to its negative views. It may be because it has no real desire to eradicate drugs or may be it's because it wants to politicize the issue and attack us. "

"You know, Uncle, you have made me see the situation more clearly. These people cut off all aid and assistance for narcotic drug control on trumped up charges against our Government on the grounds of democracy and human rights. Yet they came and went freely to the MTA headquarters, established cordial relations and even encouraged him to attack the Government. All this raises doubts about the western bloc. "

"Don't give them any benefit of the doubt. See them clearly for what they are. They actually enjoy many benefits from narcotic drugs. The individuals involved enjoy economic benefit. Then as a bonus they can use it a political tool to manipulate the situation within or without the country and in the international arena. Since they enjoy such benefits on all fronts, it is inconceivable that they would wish for the total eradication of  narcotic drugs. As long as the person of their choice doesn't come into power and as long as things in the country don't go the way they want, they'll go on making false allegations concerning narcotic drugs. It is up to us to have the strength and morale to stand up to them and continue to do what is right. Well, having said that, I think it should be enough for today. "

After discussions with my uncle I came to understand many of the questions that had puzzled me. How is it that the western bloc nations have failed to see the diligent efforts our country have been making to eradicate narcotic drugs? Why do they keep hurling false accusations despite all these efforts? And   why, instead of lending a helping hand, are they obstructing our endeavours? What are the principal reasons behind all this? Now of course I see and realize clearly who the real culprit is. I am sure the reader will realize this too.