Those Impeding Eradication of Narcotic

Part II

I went on a visit to the now peaceful and developing 'Wa' region, ( to the town of Pan San). Pan San was the central headquarters the Burma Communist Party (BCP) before its downfall. The Kokang faction was the first to break away from the BCP. The 'Wa' faction not only followed suit on 17th April,1989 but also drove out the BCP and then formed the Myanmar National Unity Party (Wa). At the time, U Kyauk Nyi Hlaing who is at present an invalid was the chairman. The 'Wa' also set up their headquarters at Pan San. It was in the same year, on 9th May that it officially signed the peace agreement with the Government. Pan San in those days was a small village inhabited by 'Wa' and Shan nationals. But today, 10 years after achieving peace, it is a thriving town. I was interested in Pan San because it had once been the headquarters of the BCP and therefore made a tour of the place. I even visited the exact spot where the premises of the BCP headquarters had once stood on a mound, at a bend on the Pan San side of the of the Nan Kha creek which demarcates the boundary with China. It had been the main headquarters of BCP chairman Ba Thein Tin and his central committee members. The buildings are now in a state of disrepair and overrun by wild brush, and symbolic of the collapse of the BCP. The buildings like the party itselfhave decayed beyond repair. Descending from the high ground I arrived at the shed where weapons, ammunition and supplies had once been stored. Now, the 'Wa' group uses it as a warehouse. From there, I proceeded to another hillock where the BCP had once installed their broadcasting station. I remember their broadcasts regularly beginning with the opening phrase '- This is the Voice of the People." It had then begun its vitupera-   tive broadcasts against the Myanmar ( iovernment and the Armed Forces. I also remember that their broadcasts had laid down guidelines for terrorist acts against the people by members oftheir above and underground cells (generally known as UGs). Now this building is the ' Wa ' Chairman's Office that issues directives for reconstruction and development in the region. Just a short distance away from the hillock is the place where students who had gone underground stayed, to be given training in sabotage methods known as "Sabai Taw" (the Jasmine Jungle). Now 'Mezali' trees provide shade and the place serves as a parking lot for construction machinery. Coming down towards town from this place, one can see from the road, the location where the BCP North East Command headquarters once stood. It has now been replace by an imposing and spacious City Hall and a park for the people.Close to it is a fairly up-to-date sports ground. In the downtown area one sees solid brick buildings, hotels, lodging houses and shops selling all manner of goods. It possesses all the requisites of a town. Then to my amazement, I was told that there was once a BCP airplane factory. Only later did I understand that reference was being made to the plant that had produced heroin with the airplane trademark. Near the small village of Pan Hpein not very far from Pan San, the BCP had set up a heroin refinery to produce the airplane brand of heroin. Now it is a resort area. Today Pan San has a monastery for those of the Buddhist faith, a characteristic feature of a typical Myanmar town. All it now needs is a pagoda, but I was told that plans had already been drawn up for the building of a Cedi. So very soon Pan San will become an attractive Myanmar border town complete with pagoda and monastery.

A partial view of the developing town of Pan San.

Early the next morning I was startled by the soumd of a loud bang. So I inquired of central committee member U Paw Laike Kham, my host as well as my guide, what had happened.

"What was that sound U Paw Laike Kham? Was it a mine detonating?" 

" That was a dynamite blast. They're blasting rock for construction of the Nant Pan Hydro-electric Power Plant."

"It really gave me a fright. I haven't heard a sound like that for a long time and my ears aren't used to it now."

Pan Khan Cedi at Pan San.

" At one time a blast like that meant the loss of life either animal or human. Now it's for construction of either roads or a factory."

" Is the Nant Pan Power Plant of considerable size?"

"It's the largest of four similar plants and its productive capacity is 7500 kilowatts. It's being built at a cost of 3200 million kyats. You'll see how large it is when we get to it."

"When will it be completed?" "It is scheduled to be opened on 17th April 1999."

Our party proceeded from Pan San to the Nant Pan Hy- dro-electric Power Plant by car. When we reached the top of a hill overlooking the town of Pan San, we could see in its vicinity rubber plantations with trees 4 to 5 years old. Opposite Pan San at Mone Ah on the Chinese side of the border, the whole area was dark with rubber forests. Quite soon, the bald hills of Pan San will be covered with dark knots of rubber trees. The road we were travelling on, though mountainous, was in good condition. So, I commented: 

"U Paw Laike Kham, the road is surprisingly good."

"This is one of the roads we built. There are now many roads like this. The total is about 700 kilometers. The road from Pan Waing to Pan San which is 187 kilometers, has been laid with gravel. We haven't been able to do that in some areas."

"If only the road to Tantyang were this good, one could travel from Pan San to Lashio in a day."

The inauguration of the Khun Mar
Hydro-electric Power Plant.

"Well, we're doing our best." 

"It's totally different from when the BCP were here."

"But we're about 20 years behind time. Elderly 'Wa' people now say that they don't want to die just yet. When asked why, they say even now, within a short period of years they see cars driving past and there's now electricity and television, so they wish to see what it will be like in another 10 year's time."

"From what I can see, there seem to be a number of Buddhist nonasteries in the area. So are there many Buddhists here? Didn't the BCP prohibit religious worship?" 

"About 40% of the people in the 'Wa' region are Buddhists. Under the BCP of course, the situation was so bad that some of the monasteries were preparing to flee the region. But you know we grew up with a monastic education and were brought up as Buddhists. That's why at a meeting of the Central Committee I raised the question whether one could be a communist only on condition that he give up his Buddhist faith, and asked that the matter be reconsidered since Buddhism had taken root in this area since ancient times. The communist leaders decided not to pursue the matter further but neither did they encourage the propagation of Buddhism." 

"Didn't they implement development programmes for agriculture, education, health and so on? What did they do actually to impart such general knowledge in practice? Their broadcasts at the time contained a lot of propaganda on such matters."

"They spouted a lot of high-brow theories that were beyond the understanding of our simple national races. But when they tried to put their theories to work it turned into a real farce. It was a failure." 

"So tell me more about it." 

The Bon Khan border bridge.

"Well they tried to set up a farming and agricultural commune. But we live in a mountainous region and depend chiefly on hillside cultivation of individual plots. How could a communal system work under such conditions? It wasn't practicable at all. The peasants simply ran away and many villages were deserted and left to perish. We're neanng then plant now - the creek you see is the Nant Pan." 

The Nant Pan Hydro-electric Power Plant was being built on the Nant Pan creek which is 30 kilometers away from Pan San. There were about 400 labourers working day and night shifts. While we toured the work site U Paw Laike Kham told me about the 2,000 kilowatt Yone Kyet Hydro-electric Plant and the 800 kilowatt Khway Mar Hydro-electric Plant that were also under construction and the 640 kilowatt Nam Tip Plant which had already been completed. After having a look around we departed in the afternoon as I had an appointment with 'Wa' chairman U Pauk Yo Chan. 

"Tell me U Paw Laike Kham, I hear that some BCP leaders are in the neighbouring country. Do they visit Pan San occasionally?" 

"Not at all. It would cause them too much loss of  face."


"They have accused us of being traitors to the party and destroyers of the BCP. If they come and visit us they'll see the progress that we have made and that would really put them to shame.

The Office of Telecommunications at Pan San.

" That day I had a friendly meeting with Chairman of the'Wa' National Unity Party U Pauk Yo Chan, Secretary U Shauk Myin Lyan and some of the central committee members. After the customary courtesies, I asked U Pauk Yu Chan for his views on the current political situation in the country. He said:

"The views of our 'Wa' group has not changed. It 's still what we declared in our announcement issued on 22nd February 1998. To be quite candid we shall follow the leadership of the Armed Forces Government. Our sole concern and main aim is the peace and development of our region. Nothing else interests us.Of course certain political parties have made attempts to persuade us to join them."

"What kind of tactics did they use?"

"Let me put it this way. Attempts to lure us comes from two sources from within the country and from abroad. One attempt was made by Hla Kyaw Zaw, expatriate daughter of ex-Brigadier General Kyaw Zaw. She asked me to meet with the NLD people and hold discussions. Then representatives from this party came to see me via Lashio to forge some sort of relations and invite us for discussions. I refused them in no uncertain terms. I told them there was nothing to discusse and also that I had no desire to meet them either."

"Why don't you wish to meet them?" 

"To put it briefly our region suffered the ravages of civil war for over two decades. It's only been a short time since peace was obtained. And within this short period of peace look at the difference it has made. Everyone can see that. So nobody wishes a return to insecure and unstable conditions. That's why we are against anything that will disrupt this peace." 

"The United States of America has accused the 'Wa' group of producing heroin and they have declared that the leaders involved are you, UPauk Yo Chan, U Li Zu and U Wai Shauk Kan."  

"Accusing others and telling lies are things that even a child can do. It's so easy. That's why when some military leaders came on a visit recently I sent word through them to our leadersnot to heed the rumours spread by the local anti-government groups nor the allegations made by foreigners. That the best thing was to continue doing what was necessary for the country and that we were behind them a 100 per cent. That's my stand."

The Pan Khan Hospital.

"I've seen with my own eyes the crop substitution work you're doing in your region. But these people refuse to
acknow-ledge the efforts being made."  

"That's what I've been saying all along. Our policy is to stand on our own feet and work things out with the support and encouragement of the State. We're doing everything within our capacity to develop roads and communications,agriculture and livestock breeding, raise education and health standards and set up some industries by building workshops and factories for commodity production. In Nan Tip, Mongmaw, Panwaing, Pan San Mongpauk and Monlyan regions, there are now thriving rubber plantations, lychee and orange orchards and tea plantations. We've achieved a fair amount of success. As far as livestock breeding is concerned, we're doing this large scale, not just on an individual basis. At Mainzing near Kyaingtong, we've set up a large pig farm with the permission of the State, at a cost of  3,200.000,000 kyats. The first litter is due next month. We have plans for another pig farm in the Tantyan region. Then there 's the chicken farm at Tachilek. With regard to education, in addition to the government schools, we've opened a boarding school known as the School for Development with over 3,200 pupils. And after the hydroelectric power plants have been completed factories will follow. On the other hand we will certainly see to it that opium cultivation is reduced." 

"Where do you get the money for all this?"

"That's the whole point. You see people think we get the money from opium. Our region is rich in a variety of mineral resources. For example in Hparlin region the Government has permitted us to begin joint mineral exploration with the Ministry of Mines. We have an ongoing timber business licenced by the  Government. Our income has been earned legally. For some enterprises, we have invited shareholders for joint ventures."

The premises of the Border
Development Youth Training School.

"U Pauk Yo Chan, you do have a systematically drawn up programme for narcotic drug eradication, don't you?" 

"Yes, we do. We have our own ten-year programme and are ready and willing to adhere to, and implement State sponsored prograrnmes too." 

"So tell me, what is the situation of opium cultivation?"

"It has fallen to a certain extent, but I don't claim that it has been wholly eliminated. There is still a certain amount of opium cultivation. It's a very difficult situation you know. Look at the topography our region. We don't have wide areas of flat land - only hilly regions and mountain ranges. Opium culti-vation has been going on for generations even though it is known to be evil. We can't produce rice you see. Opium is cul t*ated not for profit but to buy rice with. It is cultivated to stave off starvation.When opium is produced, people who want to trade in it come right up to the place of cultivation to buy it. Opium is easy to transport. It is possible to grow vegetables and other edible fruit. But they're not easy to convey to the villages. Who, may I ask, will make the effort to travel over such difficult terrain to buy the produce. Just say the word and opium cultivation can be stopped in the entire 'Wa' region. But then who will take the responsibility of feeding these peasants - where will they get the rice from? The most vital necessity in our region is rice." 

"Can't you produce rice by hill-side cultivation?" 

"The soil on the hillsides is not suitable for rice cultivation. We have a population of about 400,000 and we cannot produce an adequate amount of rice to feed this population. To buy rice from the productive areas in the plains we face the difficulty of transporting it. We are making efforts for self-sufficiency in our region. We have built a dam at Panwaing capable of irrigating 1,600 acres for paddy cultivation. There's another dam underway at Mongpauk region. After these dams have been completed, we plan to replace the opium growing villages with large rice growing ones. If we succeed we'll become self sufficient in rice." 

"U Pauk Yo Chan, from whom will you get assistance for the project?"

"We're not looking for assistance from anywhere. The State has enough on its hands with expenses incurred for the many development projects it is implementing countrywide. So we don't want to place an extra burden. That is why we're trying to stand on ow own feet and trying to realize our goals in stages."

"I think you're doing your utmost and the Americans and western countries making wild accusations against you should know about your efforts." 

"I'm sure they know, how could they not?" There are IJNDCP programmes in progress in our region, so Westerners come here often. They know very well that we're trying to make crop substitution work and that at the same time we're taking severe action against the narcotic drug trade and have made seizures. But whatever and however much they may know, they will insist on putting the blame on our country. We know very well why they're trying to make our country the scapegoat."

"By the way, I know you're planning a grand celebration to commemorate the tenth anniversary of peace." 

"Let's say a  sigluficant, rather than a grand ceremony of the peace that we have achieved. Previously, our celebrations were in the form of a military parade or a politically orientated celebration complete with appropriate slogans. This time around there will be none of that." 

"Why? What's the reason?" 

"As I said, it's a ceremony to show how much we value and appreciate our hard-earned peace. And we wish to show the progress we have made in the ten-year period, how  different conditions are now in comparison to the time under the BCP. Let the people see clearly the benefits of peace, so that they will come to realize that it is worth protecting and preserving; that it is not something to be treated carelessly and destroyed." 

"When are you holding the celebrations?" 

"On 17th  April 1999. You're invited, so please come." 

"I'll do my best to be present." After this conversation, we returned to our accommodations after bidding good bye as we had to make an early start in the morning for our return trip home. We travelled from Pan San to Kyaingtong by car along the gravel road from Pan San, Mongpauk and Monhpyan that the 'Wa' group had built. The road was lined with rubber plantations and at Mongphyan there was a lychee orchard.

Dear reader, it will now be obvious to you, the tremendous efforts that have been made by the 'Wa' leaders to eradicate narcotic drugs from their region with all means within their reach. Yet the Americans and western bloc nations have made accusations that their region is the largest cultivator of opium and that it produces the largest amount of narcotic drugs. As U Pauk Yu Chan said they are making these charges not because they are ignorant of the efforts being made by the 'Wa' to eliminate drugs, but as a deliberate smear campaign. What is the  real reason behind it and whom does it benefit? I am sure the answer is already obvious to the reader. As far as the 'Wa' leaders are concerned, no matter what others may say, they will continue with their work with determination and diligence to transform the 'Wa' Region into an 'Opium  Free Zone'. This, I believe in absolutely, for I have seen with my own  eyes, what they have done and are still doing.