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Burma: drug production and trafficking

Websites/Multiple Documents

Title: Opium Production Spreads to Chin State
Date of publication: 29 March 2016
Description/subject: "Free Burma Rangers (FBR) recently finished a mission to document opium production in Chin State, Burma. Chin State is not widely known in Burma for its production of opium. With the recent flooding in the region, however, FBR teams on the ground have noted that many internally displaced people (IDPs) and farmers have turned to the cash crop as a more profitable means of income in the wake of the massive destruction of traditional crops. In the past, when floods or droughts destroyed crops, many farmers in Chin State took to hunting and fishing in order to provide for their families. Within the last couple years however, with the floods depleting local fishing stocks, and the Indian military shutting down hunting along the border, villagers have been left with few options to provide for themselves and their families. As the opium poppy is a drought-resistant crop, it is an easier and more lucrative means of making money when other means fail. Opium farming is not without risk, however. One example is Singpial Village, with around 70 houses located near the border of India in Chin State. Since the villagers there started farming opium, there have been seven opium-related deaths and the arrest of another four individuals in cases involving opium smuggling. Chin FBR teams note however that many of the local authorities and police in Singpial are apathetic to opium production and have not taken reasonable steps to eradicate the illicit production of drugs. Opium farming seems more prevalent in areas that do not receive social services. For example, Tonzang Township is an area that is now regionally notorious for its opiumproduction. Here villages have no government-supported schools, paved roads, or running water. In some villages there is a practice of farmers hiring extra labor to work crops in nearby fields, while they themselves farm opium in fields within the nearby jungle. In order to tackle the problem of opium farming, underlying problems must be dealt with first. Irrigation channels destroyed by nature must be repaired, the infrastructure that allows crops to be sold in markets must be built, and schools must be established. Unless concrete steps are taken to alleviate the underlying causes of drug production, the growing of opium in Chin State will likely increase..."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Free Burma Rangers
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 10 April 2016

Individual Documents

Title: Burmese Daze
Date of publication: November 2008
Description/subject: The decline of opium production in the Golden Triangle masks serious flaws in the effectiveness of drug eradication efforts in the region.... "...To prevent exacerbating the hardships already being suffered by rural communities and undermining the sustainability of achievements to date, drug-control policies should be development-oriented. They should take a longer-term perspective and concentrate on putting alternative livelihoods in place for opium farmers. It is vital that the international community does not abandon the Golden Triangle at this crucial time. Without such approaches, it is unlikely that the reduction in opium production will be sustainable..."
Author/creator: Tom Kramer
Language: English
Source/publisher: "The Irrawaddy" Vol. 16, No. 11
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 15 November 2008

Title: Doing Wrong to Do Good - review of Tom Kramer
Date of publication: December 2007
Description/subject: The ethnic Wa party says its nationalist agenda is not funded by the drug trade, but is that the real story? ..."The title of this book is somewhat misleading. It is not either/or: it is perfectly possible to be both. Fifteen years ago, observers argued whether Khun Sa’s Mong Tai Army was a narco-army or a basically political organization. It was also both..."
Author/creator: Bertil Lintner
Language: English
Source/publisher: "The Irrawaddy" Vol. 15, No. 12
Format/size: html
Alternate URLs: http://www.irrawaddy.org/print_article.php?art_id=9482
Date of entry/update: 27 April 2008

Title: The Chinese Connection: Cross-border Drug Trafficking between Myanmar and China
Date of publication: April 2007
Description/subject: Executive Summary: This report presents findings from a two-year field study of drug trafficking activities between Myanmar (formerly Burma) and China. Interviews were conducted with law enforcement officials, community contacts and informants, incarcerated drug traffickers, active street drug dealers, drug addicts, as well as with other researchers in the field. Observations were made both inside the Golden Triangle and the surrounding regions. People of diverse backgrounds participate in the business of drug trafficking and distribution. Our data showed that most drug traffickers are poorly educated, with few employable skills or alternatives to make a living comparable to their aspirations. Drug traffickers in general do not belong to street gangs, organized crime groups, or terrorist organizations. Most are simply bold risk takers who work with family members, or form alliances with friends or other social contacts whom they come to trust. Drug trafficking operations are carefully planned with ingenious disguises and strategies to evade law enforcement activities. The business of drug trafficking, although dominated by groups of entrepreneurs, resembles a “learning” organism surprisingly adaptive to law enforcement interventions and market uncertainties. Traffickers continue to develop ingenious concealment and transportation schemes to stay ahead of the authorities. As a result, most drug seizures as reported by government news releases or the media are not the result of checkpoint stops or random inspections but of careful cultivation of intelligence from informants. Trafficking is mainly considered a way to make money, although earnings vary tremendously according to the roles individuals play in trafficking operations. We do not believe that, based on our data, large criminal organizations or terrorist groups are systematically involved in the drug trafficking business. Nor did we find signs of turf wars or competition among trafficking groups or street dealers. Drug trafficking and street dealing in China as well as in most parts of Southeast Asia appear to remain entrepreneurial in nature and fragmented in practice. Over the past few decades, drug trafficking between Myanmar and China has evolved in several directions. Shipments of drugs in large quantities have largely disappeared (or perhaps are better concealed) and most drugs are moved in small quantities by large numbers of individuals, or “mules,” who know little about the organizers behind the scene. Between drug manufacturers and end users are multiple and often overlapping layers of transportation and distribution networks, each involving only a few people. These groups of “mules” and their organizers work much like ants moving the contraband piece by piece successively from one location to another. The vast majority of our subjects were involved in heroin transportation. Therefore, our observations and conclusions were mostly based on heroin traffickers, although there is no reason to believe that traffickers of other illicit drugs were much different organizationally and operationally. Harsh punishment and the totalitarian political regimes appear to have hindered the development of large trafficking organizations in China and Myanmar. International pressure and China’s draconian anti-drug policy have also significantly reduced the scale of opium poppy cultivation in Myanmar, making any sustained supply of heroin in the future doubtful. By official and addicts’ accounts, heroin trafficking and use have been on a steady but slow decline for years. The street price of heroin has skyrocketed in the past decade or so in China and other parts of the Golden Triangle, making heroin the least affordable illicit substance on the market. This suggests that heroin supply has become scarce. However, the production of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) such as ice and ketamine has increased rapidly in recent years, suggesting changes in the makeup of the addict population as well as changing market demand in the Golden Triangle region. Countries in the Golden Triangle region have all reported widespread availability of ATS, with those made in Myanmar commanding the highest price. Many factors may have contributed to the decline of heroin production and trafficking as well as the sharp rise of ATS in the region. The U.S. and other international involvement in the regional anti-narcotics efforts appear to have produced measurable impact in reducing opium poppy cultivation and heroin manufacturing. Findings from this study underscore the importance of continued collaboration and mutual assistance in international efforts. However, counter-narcotic efforts in the region in recent years have either stalled or been disrupted due to Myanmar’s political situation, despite the recent progress. The United States’ near total cessation of involvement in Myanmar’s anti-drug effort has not produced any intended political outcomes, but has served to diminish whatever influence the U.S. may have had from its past efforts. Continued financial as well as technical assistance through third country programs should be explored for the United States to remain engaged and monitor regional illicit drug manufacturing and distribution activities. Ample intelligence suggests that Southeast Asia is well on its way to become a major ATS supply source in the world. If one thinks the red-hot Asian economy has flooded North America with cheap consumer goods, wait till Asian drug manufacturers and traffickers show off their entrepreneurial prowess. It will happen in due time.
Author/creator: Ko-lin Chin, Sheldon X. Zhang
Language: English
Source/publisher: The United States Department of Justice
Format/size: pdf (643K)
Date of entry/update: 28 December 2008

Title: Bizarre Night Bazaar
Date of publication: June 2006
Description/subject: Burma’s contraband trade flourishes in a floating market... "Beyond prying eyes on shore, the dark waters of the Andaman Sea off the island-dotted coast of southeast Burma’s Mon State frequently host a bizarre night market. Scores of fishing vessels line up side by side, switch on their neon lights and begin buying and selling. The crews and vessel owners trade in everything from women to Mercedes Benz cars. Most of the trade is coming into Burma illegally, but the most prized commodity is outgoing—drugs. Despite claims by the junta that it is curbing opium and methamphetamine production, and an acknowledgement by the US State Department that poppy growing in Burma is today less than 20 percent of mid-1990s levels, Burmese drug manufacturing is still a multi-million dollar-a-year business. Burma remains the world’s second-largest opium producer, after Afghanistan, and last year processed about 380 tonnes, said a State Department report earlier this year..."
Author/creator: Aung Zaw
Language: English
Source/publisher: "The Irrawaddy" Vol. 14, No. 6
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 29 December 2006

Title: Die Wa in Gefahr. Nach dem Opiumbann droht in der Special Region 2 eine humanitäre Katastrophe
Date of publication: 29 December 2005
Description/subject: In den Grenzregionen des Shan State im Nordosten Burmas, die seit 1989 unter der Kontrolle der United Wa State Army (UWSA) ist, werden 65 Prozent des gesamten Opiums des Landes angebaut. Trotz der Bereitschaft der Landwirte konnten wegen minderwertiger Bodenbeschaffenheit und klimatischer Bedingungen bisher noch keine Erfolg versprechenden Alternativen zum Opiumanbau realisiert werden. Seit dem kompletten Bann im Jahre 2005 werden tiefgreifende humanitäre Konsequenzen für die Region in Form von Menschenhandel, Armut und mangelnder Sicherheit befürchtet. keywords: ethnic minorities, Wa, Shan State, opium production, opium trafficking, resettlement
Author/creator: Michael Tröster
Language: Deutsch, German
Source/publisher: Asienhaus Focus Asien Nr. 26; S. 45-55
Format/size: pdf
Date of entry/update: 20 March 2006

Title: Trading Against Allah
Date of publication: February 2004
Description/subject: "Koranic law proscribes using money earned from trading in drugs. But many Burmese Muslims in China can’t resist the benefits of joining in. By Naw Seng/Ruili, China Picture this: Two young Burmese Muslims are hanging out, wearing neat, bright clothes and American Ray-Ban sunglasses with golden hand chains. Near them is a Chinese-made chopper, and around them are bustling Chinese and Burmese Muslims stealthily unwrapping pieces of cloth to reveal their wares of jade. Are they jade traders, or Mafiosi? At the corner of the market, a thirty-something Burmese Muslim named Bushi sits in his small store and sells seasonal fruits on the street. He was once like the traders, but last year he lost nearly all of his property. He has no friends and no money. "No one wants to talk to me," he says. "I have been Hkali." In Burmese Muslim usage, Hkali means zero or nil. Bushi came to China thirteen years ago. For five years he had trafficked heroin, but he stopped after taking a big loss. Before last year, he was a respected leader of the Muslim community in Ruili, a Chinese town on the border with Burma. At that time he had dozens of aides and spent more than 5,000 yuan (US $600) per day in drug earnings. "I understand heroin kills people," he said. But then he had no choice. Now he does. "I don’t want that hell."..."
Language: English
Source/publisher: "The Irrawaddy" Vol. 12, No. 2
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 09 June 2004

Title: Opium Poppy Cultivation and Heroin Processing in Southeast Asia
Date of publication: March 2001
Description/subject: Contents: origin and history of the opium poppy, the opium poppy plant, Opium poppy growing areas, Field selection and land clearing, Land preparation and cultivation methods, opium harvesting methods, Cooking opium, Extraction of morphine from opium, Conversion of morphine to heroin base, Conversion of heroin base to heroin No. 3, Conversion of heroin base to heroin No. 4.
Language: English
Source/publisher: Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), U.S. Department of Justice.
Alternate URLs: http://www.usdoj.gov:80/dea/pubs/intel/20026/20026.html
Date of entry/update: 03 June 2003

Title: The price dynamics of Southeast Asian heroin
Date of publication: February 2001
Description/subject: Drug Intelligence Brief Synopsis: "This report provides an analysis of available data on opium and heroin prices in Mainland Southeast Asia (Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam). The report is documented with detailed descriptions of the general wholesale price structure of opium and heroin in Asia. While the heroin market spans the globe, much of the Southeast Asian opium and heroin product is sold and consumed within the region. Therefore, the focus in this report is on prices in Southeast Asia with only limited reference made to United States prices. The data used to prepare this analysis are drawn from numerous sources. Opium price data are derived from anecdotal reports provided by confidential sources of the Thai police. Heroin price data are acquired from a variety of sources to include law enforcement reporting, intelligence reports, and open sources of information. There are many factors impacting drug prices..."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Intelligence Division, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of the US Dept. of Justice
Alternate URLs: http://www.usdoj.gov:80/dea/pubs/intel/01004-intellbrief.pdf
Date of entry/update: 03 June 2003

Title: Opium and Heroin Production in Burma
Date of publication: 1996
Description/subject: Based on Ronald Renard's "The Burma Connection" UNRISD 1996
Author/creator: Ronald Renard
Language: English
Source/publisher: The Global Hangover Guide
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 11 August 2010

Date of publication: 1993
Description/subject: THE PROPOSAL: "We, the leadership of the United WA State Party (UWSP) and the United WA State Army (UWSA) propose to anyone who might be interested, that we eradicate opium growing and stop the production of heroin in all the territory controlled by the WA. This we are willing to do. It can be done very quickly. I have full authority to speak for the United WA State Party and the United WA State Army which has ample power to carry out this proposal... THE PLEA" The plea is a necessary part of the proposal. We need food for our people while we develop substitute crops. Our people are already so poor that to take away opium production without giving them food would mean starvation. Beyond that, we need help of every appropriate kind to make the transition from an opium-based economy to a new agricultural economy..."
Author/creator: Ta Saw Lu
Language: English
Source/publisher: United Wa State Party (UWSP) Foreign Affairs Department
Format/size: html (42K)
Date of entry/update: 23 July 2003