Endeavours of the Government of the Union of Myanmar in narcotic drug control

The new light of Myanmar

Saturday,27 May, 2000


of the Government of the Union of Myanmar

in narcotic drug control

The Union of Myanmar located in the Southeast Asian region, is a country that

always strives to maintain relations of friendship and cooperation with its neighbors in

adherence with the Five Principles of Co-existence of the Bandung Conference. Myanmar’s

neighbors are China in the north and northeast, India in the northwest, Bangladesh in the

west, Thailand in the southeast and east, and Laos in the northeast. It shares a border of

2,192 kilometers with China; 1331 kilometers with India; 256 kilometers with Bangladesh;

2096 kilometers with’ Thailand and 224 kilometers with Laos making a total of 6,099

kilometers. The terrain along this borderline is rugged with thick jungle and steep

mountains and this together with poor road communications severely limits accessibility.

Myanmar also has a long coastline of 2,296 kilometers. Prior to British colonial rule,

opium cultivation and production in Myanmar were non-existent in Myanmar. It was the

British Imperialists who introduced opium cultivation and also encouraged its consumption.

By the time Myanmar regained independence in 1948, the evil legacy bequeathed by the

British had taken firm root in the Shan State and in the border regions. This situation

was exacerbated when, in the latter part of 1949, the Kuomintang (KMT) Chinese troops,

defeated in the Battle of Southern Yunnan in China, retreated and intruded into Myanmar

and occupied the northeastern region. After establishing such a foothold in the country,

it was observed that neighbouring Thailand and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had

some involvement with the KMT. During,that period the KMT intervention intensified the

insurgent situation in Myanmar and also created and brought in its wake the problem of

narcotic drugs.

The Myanmar Armed Forces launched military operations to overcome the intruding

KMT troops and at the same time submitted a report to the United Nations with an appeal to

effectively rectify the situation. In the meantime, in 1961, the Myanmar Armed Forces were

able to seize the KMT camp at Mong Palio and in so doing three occidentals were captured

dead along with incriminating evidence in the form of weapons and ammunition. With the

submission of this irrefutable evidence, the KMT troops were thus ordered to evacuate

Myanmar territory. In 1961/63 the KMT forces were compelled to retreat but the majority

did not return to Taiwan. Instead, they set up villages to settle in Thailand along the

border. The KMT No (3/5) Divisions were reorganized legally and accorded official

recognition as People’s Militia by Thailand and were given permission to settle in Thai

villages established along the Thai-Myanmar border. They were given the task of fighting

the communist insurgents in Northern Thailand. Moreover Thailand also overlooked and

ignored the fact that insurgent groups fighting Myanmar consisting of the Shan United

Revolutionary Army (SURA), the dummy Yang Faction, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and

the Pa-O insurgents had put up settlements inside Thai terrory and implicitly allowed them

to take refuge. In Thailand, the No 3 KMT Divisional Headquarters was permitted to encamp

in Tang Ngawt and the No 5 Divisional Headquarters in Mae Salaung. These troops then

proceeded to set up opium refineries in these regions and in collusion with the other

insurgents embarked on the illegal narcotic drug trade. The KMT troops did lend a help to

Thailand in suppressing its communist insurgents and in return they were at liberty to set

up heroin refineries and carry on with the narcotic drug trade in Chiengmai and Chiengrai

provinces along the common borders of Thailand and Myanmar.

The Myanmar Armed Forces, People’s Police Force and other agencies and

organizations concerned have collaborated closely since 1973 to effectively combat and

prevent the proliferation of narcotic drugs. In 1974, the Narcotic and Dangerous Drugs Law

was enacted. On 2nd March 1976, the Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control was forded to

take systematic and effective action for prevention and suppression of narcotic drugs. The

Armed Forces launched military off orations to quell armed insurgent groups involved in

the production of opium and drug trafficking along the border areas. Special military

operations such as Operation Moe Hein, Operation Nga Ye Pan, Operation Taung Yan Shin,

Operation Taung Hteik Pan and Operation Aung Moe Hein were conducted annually towards the

control and eradication of narcotic drugs. The results of the ceaseless military action

against drugs eradication during the 14-year period form then on, are as follows:

(a) Heroin 109 kilos

(b) Opium 5,453 kilos

(c) Marijuana 347 kilos

(d) Morphine Base 344 kilos

(e) Precursor chemicals and assorted 24,994 liters

(f) Liquid opium 7,524 liters

(g) Heroin refining Camps demolished 15 Nos.

(h) Poppy fields destroyed 211,199 acres

However, since 1988, the European Union as well as the United States of

America withdrew all forms of assistance for Myanmar, including that for narcotic drug

control. But, the Myanmar, Government, knowing that narcotic drugs constitute the common

scourge of mankind, has with good faith designated the fight against it as a national

task. It has carried on the crusade against narcotic drugs with its own limited resources

and achieved a fair measure of success. Opium poppy is cultivated in the remote and

undeveloped areas in the Shan State along the country’s borders. The terrain in these

areas is so rugged that communications are poor in addition to which the climate is

extremely hard and not conducive for the cultivation of most other crops. Local residents

thus turned to the cultivation of opium poppy as the main cash crop and this led to link

up with the armed national groups operating in the region. The Government of the Union of

Myanmar, to alleviate this situation, has therefore given priority to the goals of

implementing border area development and the attainment of national reconciliation. With

this in view the Government laid down the following strategies and tactics for narcotic

drug control.


(i) To designate drug eradication as a national task to be achieved with every

endeavour and with all possible means.

(ii) To work for the development of the border areas,to raise thc standard of

living of the national races and undertake measures for the total eradication of opium



(i) Interdiction and suppression (Law Enforcement)

(ii) Elimination of opium production. (Supply Elimination)

(iii) Elimination of drug abuse.( Demand Elimination)

Due to the systematic action taken in accordance with the above strategies and

tactics, significant strides were made in narcotic drug interdiction. The figures below

show the impact of the action taken within the 1Syear period from September 1988 to 1999

and the significant improvements made as compared with action taken before 1988.

(a) Opium 29,557 kilos

(b) Heroin 4,399 kilos

(c) Phensedyl 34,455 litres

(d) Precursor chemicals and assorted acids 63,871 gals

(e) Ephedrine 13,460 kilos

(f) Methamphetamine 55,725,071 tablets

(g) Heroin refineries destroyed 118 Nos.

(h) Opium fields destroyed 90,750 acres

(i) Seized Narcotic Drugs Publicly Torched (Approx. 35 tons). 13 times

(j) Seized narcotic drugs publicly torched in the border areas 20 times

(approximately 15 tons)

Another important factor is the return home of 17 armed national race groups to

the jurisdiction of the State due to the good will and sincere endeavours of the good will

and sincere endeavours of the Government. Because these armed groups are now working not

only in cooperation with the Government for the development of their various regions, but

also in narcotic control measures. It has resulted an added impetus in the eradication of

narcotic drugs. In April 1997 Special Region 4 of eastern Shan State, (the Mong Ma/ Mong

La) region was declared a Drug Free Zone. Likewise, efforts are now in progress to

establish drug free zones in Special Region l of northern Shan State in the year 2000 and

in Special Region 2 of northern Shan State in 2005.

The State Peace and Development Council Government has reorganized and expanded

the Central Committee of Drug Abuse Control with a view to further accelerating the

momentum of narcotic drug control measures. A Base Line Data Collection Programme on opium

cultivation acreage and the number of drug addicts was carried out as a national movement

on a countrywide scale from January to June 1998. Based on the statistical data collected

a Fifteen-year Plan for the Eradication of Narcotic Drugs was drawn up and implementation

began in the year 1999-2000. The Government is fully committed to the total eradication of

narcotic drugs from its soil and in its unceasing struggle against this menace has

cooperated with non-governmental organizations, UN organizations, neighbouring countries

and other countries in the region. In order to participate in international cooperation

Myanmar became a state party to the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961.

Myanmar also acceded to the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, 1971, and

the UN Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances,

1988. Furthermore, bilateral agreements on control of the illicit drug trade and drug

abuse were signed respectively with India on 30th March 1993; with Bangladesh on 1st

December 1994; with Vietnam on 12th March l995; with the Russian Federation on 22nd

January, and with Laos on 29th March 1997. As part of the Sub-region Action Plan on Drug

Control, Myanmar became a signatory to a Six-nation Memorandum of Understanding with

Cambodia, China, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam to reduce the volume of the illicit drug

trade and drug abuse.

Since then Myanmar has participated in projects under the Sub-regional Action

Plan drawn up by the United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP).

Moreover, Myanmar has attended ministerial-level meetings held between Myanmar and

neighbouring countries Thailand and Laos since 1992 and has been an active partner in

narcotic drug affairs. As a member of the ASEAN, Myanmar has also signed the Joint

Declaration on A Drug Free Zone in the ASEAN Region by the year 2020 at the ASEAN

Ministerial-level meeting held in Manila, Philippines on 25th July 1998. Moreover, Myanmar

hosted the Fourth International Heroin Conference sponsored by the INTERPOL in Yangon from

23rd to 26th February 1999.

In addition Myanmar has cooperated with the Government of the United States in

collecting samples from illicit poppy fields in the Shan State to estimate opium yields.

Such opium yield surveys were conducted in 1 993,1 995,1997,1 998, l 999 and very recently

from 23rd to 17th February 2,000 making a total of six such surveys.

Despite these efforts, The Bangkok Post and the Nation newspapers of Thailand

have recently published reports on narcotic drug affairs concerning Myanmar with

insinuating remarks such as: “Stimulant tablets and heroin are being produced in

large quantities within Myanmar territory along the Thai-Myanmar border.” “The

government is turning a blind eye to the illicit drug trade perpetrated by the former

armed national groups.” “The Myanmar Armed Forces are involved in illicit drug

ventures.” “The ‘Wa’ group of the south is engaged in development projects of

the eastern Shan State and are constructing roads in Mong Yung, building dams and electric

power plants but with proceeds from their drug trafficking.” A statement was also

made to the effect that stimulant tablets, literally in the millions, enter Thailand

annually from this region. They imply that Myanmar has been reluctant to cooperate in drug

control measures. These news reports have utterly ignored Myanmar’s valiant endeavours in

drug control and have deliberately tried to belittle and diminish the successes that

Myanmar has achieved with their irresponsible and biased reports.

Prior to the time of Khun Sa’s surrender, there were opium refineries in the

Homong region and along the Thai border regions. With the unconditional surrender of the

MTA group headed by Khun Sa the illegal narcotic trade should have been greatly curtailed

and finally eliminated. But Ywet Sitt, (Yawd Sod), a Shan national of the Mong Htaw-Mong

Hta region of the MTA and Kyauk Hsit Lu Laing in the region west of Tachilek have refused

to lay down arms and are still active in the drug trade. They have instead established

bases in Paing Long and (Ban Hin Tek) within Thailand and together with other MTA

stragglers have teamed up with the White Chinese KMT remnant groups who

are also based in Paing Long and Ban Hin Hek. These groups are now jointly carrying on

terrorist and drug trafficking activities.

The answer to all these problems, I think, is quite simple and brief, and, that

is “No Precursors, No Drugs.” If we should make a careful probe and analyze the

questions, “Who is helping and providing refuge to the armed terrorists along the

Thai-Myanmar border for their continued existence?” Who has actual links to the

illicit drug trade and is involved in these nefarious activities?” “Has the

Myanmar Government resolutely fought against the drug menace although beset by many

difficulties?” “How effective has its actions been and what nest projects are

being planned for future undertaking?” If these crucial questions are reflected upon

honestly and objectively after careful study, the answers will be clear enough for all to


This author however is inclined to the view that there could conceivably be

some who are actually concerned and worried that the narcotic drug trade will eventually

be stamped out and disappear altogether. This however is of little consequence. What is

important is the realization that the narcotic drug problem is not a problem for a single

country to tackle and deal with alone. It is a worldwide problem. So, not only should each

country voluntarily and conscientiously do its level best to effectively annihilate

narcotic drugs, but the world’s nations should in close cooperation, continue the fight to

uproot once and for all, narcotic drugs, the scourge of mankind from the world scene.

Author : kyaw Kyaw