Myanmar gets U.S., Japan grants to fight drugs

Myanmar gets U.S., Japan grants to

fight drugs

08:51 a.m. Apr 01, 1998 Eastern

YANGON, April 1 (Reuters) – The United States and Japan have pledged grants

totalling $3.8 million to help Myanmar eradicate poppy cultivation on its border

areas, a Myanmar official said on Wednesday.

The pledges of $3 million by the United States and $800,000 by Japan were

made after a two-day seminar on strategies to eradicate poppy cultivation

jointly organised by the United Nations Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) and the

Myanmar and Japanese governments in the capital Yangon.

“Out of the total budget of $15.5 million for a

five-year total drug eradication plan to be carried out in the Wa (northeast)

region, the governments of the United States and Japan have promised us $3.8

million,” said Mya Maung, director general of the agriculture and

irrigation ministry at a news conference.

He had earlier chaired one session at the seminar.

This would be the first direct grant made by the United States to Myanmar in

its fight against opium and other drugs processing since 1988 when the military

seized power in the country.

Myanmar has in the past complained that Washington has not helped

sufficiently in its fight against drugs. The country’s northeastern border with

Thailand and Laos forms the infamous Golden Triangle where poppy growing

thrives. “We try to approach the narcotic problem from an

objective and largely non-political sort of approach,” said Douglas

Rasmussen, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Yangon, when asked

about the grant. ^[email protected]

Excerpts from The Japan Times

Page -3

9 April 1988.

Aid to curb Myanmar opium could total

up to Yen 700 million


Staff writer

Japan will provide between Yen 500 million and Yen 700 million in

grant-in-aid to help Myanmar increase production of alternative crops to opium

along its northeastern border with Thailand and Laos, Foreign Ministry sources

said Wednesday.

The decision to provide the official development assistance – the first

full-scale grant-in-aid given to Myanmar in nearly 2.5 years – will be formally

approved at a Cabinet meeting early next month, the sources said.

The sources said the funds will be used to purchase tractors and fertilizers

for farmers in an opium-producing area in northeastern Myanmar. The so-called

Golden Triangle region, comprising parts of Myanmar, Thailand and Laos, is

notorious for cultivating huge amounts of the crop.

The sources said that although Japan also provided Yen 1 billion in

grant-in-aid in March 1995 to help Myanmar increase agricultural production in

areas inhabited by ethnic minorities, the use of that aid was not limited to the

country*s northeastern opium-producing area.

The sources indicated that the 1995 aid was not properly used by the

government and said that Japan-in cooperation with the United Nations Drug

Control Program – will strictly monitor the use of new aid money to ensure that

it is not diverted to other purposes.

The aid will be the largest grant-in-aid given to Myanmar since October 1995,

when Tokyo provided Yen 1.6 billion to the country*s capital, Yangon, for

repairs to a nurse training school.

Since the military took power of Myanmar in a 1988 coup, Japan has

effectively suspended official development assistance – both grant-in aid and

low-interest yen loans – for Yangon except for what it views as humanitarian


Although Japan decided last month to disburse about Yen 2.5 billion in yen

loans for the repair of Yangon*s international airport, government officials

have unanimously insisted that the first yen-loan in a decade is for the “purely

humanitarian” purpose of ensuring safety at the aging airport.

Japan has recently shown a readiness to play a more active role in addressing

the drug issue in Myanmar and elsewhere in Asia. Japan, Myanmar and the UNDCP

jointly sponsored an international seminar in Yangon on March 31 and April 1 to

discuss ways to develop alternative crops to opium.

Although Japan has already made financial contributions to the UNDCP’s

anti-drug operation in Myanmar, the seminar marked the first time that Japan had

jointly sponsored an international meeting in Yangon on the drug issue. A

special session of the U.N. General Assembly on drugs is also scheduled for June

in New York.

The Yangon seminar which brought together senior officials from nearly 30

governments and international organizations, was aimed at strengthening efforts

by Myanmar and other Asian countries to eradicate the drug problem though an

exchange of information and experience on developing alternative crops to opium.