The Era of the Anti Fascist Peoples’ Freedom League (AFPFL) Government
By the time Myanmar regained her independence in 1948, the cultivation of poppy and production of opium, the odious legacy of the British, had taken hold and was flourishing in many parts of the Shan State. Then in 1949-50, remnant KMT troops trapped near the Myanmar-China border encroached and ensconced themselves on Myanmar territory which greatly contributed to the widespread cultivation and trafficking of opium in the Shan State.
In the first week of June 1950, Myanmar Tatmadaw authorities in Kyaing Tong gave ultimatum to the Kuomintang troops to either lay down arms and surrender or to leave the Myanmar territory to which the latter replied that they would fight back. True to their words the Kuomintang troops attacked and captured Tachileik town and stationed their troops along Kyaing Tong- Tachlleik Highway. The Myanmar Tatmadaw launched an offensive in the second week of June 1950 against the Kuomintang troops. The offensive was successful and the Tatmadaw not only secured the Kyaing Tong-Tachileik Highway but also recaptured Tachileik from the enemy troops.
The Tatmadaw launched Operation Frost and Operation Panglong against the KMT in February and November 1951 respectively. In the latter part of 1951 Lt. Gen. Lee Koh Suan replaced General Li mi, who returned to Taiwan and took command of the KMT troops. He created Airdrop Zones in Kyaing Tong rapidly and rebuilt the Kyaing Tong airfield as an Air Force Base. This airfield eventually became the operation base for regular air transports between Kuomintang headquarters in Taiwan and its troops in Mvanmar. In fact there were two regular C-46 and C-47 transport aircraft flights from Taiwan every week and each time they brought in weapons ammunitions, medicine and pharmaceutical products and on their return trip, they carried back home opium as their cargo. In January 1952, some KMT troops infiltrated into Mawchi area and made contacts with the Karen National Defense Organization (KN DO). Since then KMT and KNDO troops had regular contacts. The KMT troops, with the cooperation of the local KNDO insurgents smuggled opium and mineral ore illegally to Thailand for their military funds thereby commercializing opium trade in the region.
Complaint To The United Nations
Myanmar lodged a formal complaint regarding the Kuomintang aggression against Myanmar to the United Nations on 25 March 1953. On 31 March 1953 the United Nations General Assembly decided to consider the complaint under agenda item 77 and the matter was allotted to the First Committee. When the complaint was considered in the First Committee on 17 April 1953 U Myint Thein Chairman of the Myanmar Delegation presented to the Committee the circumstances and events that led to the aggression how the civil population was terrorized by the Kuomintang troops and how that aggression was directed and supported by the Taipei authorities. In his statement he stated that “… the Kuomintang troops have engaged in large-scale smuggling of opium and in organized gambling the profits of which have gone into their pockets.”
On 23 April 1953 the General Assembly adopted the draft resolution on the Kuomintang aggression which the First Committee had recommeded, with 59 votes in favour and 1 abstention. No country voted against the resolution. Thus the entire membership of the United Nations demonstrated full understanding and sympathy towards the legitimate complaint made by Myanmar. The leader of the Myanmar delegation pledged Myanmar’s full cooperation in the implementation of the resolution.
Pursuant to that resolution, military representatives from the United States, Thailand, Myanmar and Taipei met at the United States Embassy in Bangkok, on 22 May 1953 for the evacuation of Koumintang troops from Myanmar. The series of meetings held failed to reach a solution satisfactory to both sides and the Myanmar delegation withdrew from consultations on September 19. The United States, Thailand and Taipei continued consultations, which led to the withdrawal of 2000 Kuomintang troops in November and December, an arrangement agreed to by the Myanmar Government. While it was decided that the Kuomintang troops hand over Mong Hsat, Mong Tong, Mong Yang and Mong Yawng which they had occupied, they refused to do so. The Myanmar Tatmadaw was then compelled to launch military operations to force out the remaining Koumintang troops. The representatives from the other three countries continued negotiations on the withdrawal of the remaining Kuomintang troops, which led to the withdrawal of another 7000 Kuomintang troops. However, by 1954 Kuomintang troops in Myanmar increased their strength again to 3 Divisions and the Tatmadaw launched Yuzana Operation, Bayintnaung Operation, Sinphyushin Operation, Yangyi Aung Operation and Mekong Operation to drive them out. Mekong Operation which began in December 1960, ended successfully in February 1961 and as a result, the Kuomintang troops ultimately withdrew from Myanmar in large numbers for good. The remnants entrenched themselves along the Myanmar border and engaged in cultivation, production, processing and trafficking of opium for their existence.
While the Myanmar Government, with sacrifices made by the Tatmadaw, had cleansed the country of the aggressor of Kuomintang troops, who were also illegally trafficking opium, it also took measures on drug abuse control matters at the same time. In 1958, the government formed the Opium Enquiry Committee and implemented measures on combating drug addiction, introducing crop substitution, rehabilitation programmes for drug addicts and made the opium Law of Myanmar effective in the Shan State as well. Moreover, it promulgated the Compulsory Registration of Drug Addicts Act in 1955.
During the Caretaker Government’s tenure, the Sawbwas (Feudal Lords) of Shan State relinquished their feudal powers on 24 April 1959 which were replaced by a democratic administration. Thus, the government was able to extend its narcotic control programmes to these regions also. The Frontier Areas Administration also gave assistance to the local community on the eastern side of Thanlwin River to implement crop substitution programmes.