Source: Voice of America 
Pubdate: Tue, 9 Jun 1998
Author: Gary Thomas 


Intro: The special anti-drug session of the UN General Assembly is in its
second day in New York (Tuesday). The conference is working to adopt a
common strategy to fight the international narcotics trade. As
correspondent Gary Thomas reports from Bangkok, southeast Asia remains a
huge producer of illegal narcotics -- and gets mixed reviews for its
efforts to eradicate the trade.

Text: Burma's official Myanmar News Agency reported Tuesday the arrest of
three suspected drug dealers near the Thai border and the seizure of more
than one-million amphetamine tablets.

The seizure underscores how some old patterns of narcotics trafficking are
changing in southeast Asia.

For years, the production of opium and heroin centered on two areas: the
"golden crescent" of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, and the golden
triangle area of Burma, Thailand, and Laos.

But, according to United Nations and Thai government statistics, a new
element has crept into the southeast Asian narcotics trade. As Tuesday's
announced seizure demonstrates, laboratory-manufactured synthetic drugs are
flowing across the border along with the traditional loads of opium and

Recent reports by both the United Nations and the State Department point to
a wave of stimulant manufacture and abuse -- and southeast Asia is a source
of both supply and demand. Amphetamines, along with allied stimulant drugs
marketed under names like "ecstasy," have become popular with young people
in Asia.  Thailand has estimated about 20-million amphetamine tablets are
being smuggled from burma each year.

This is on top of Burma's production of an estimated 60-percent of the
world's heroin.

Burma's military rulers have come under harsh international criticism,
particularly from the United States, for allegedly not doing enough to
fight the drug trade.  On Monday, General Barry Mccaffrey, Director Of The
White House Office Of National Drug Control Policy, said there has been no
real progress on lowering the rate of drug production.

The United States has worked to isolate Burma internationally for its human
rights abuses and therefore has withheld any direct assistance to Rangoon
for drug enforcement.

Burma denies the U.S. charges, and says it is making good faith efforts to
eradicate the drug trade.  In a just-published pamphlet, Lieutenant Colonel
Hla Min of the Burmese Government's Office Of Strategic And International
Studies, lashed out at what he labels an "unreasonable refusal" by the U.S.
government to recognize Burma's anti-narcotics efforts.

Hla Min points out the government has made peace with the ethnic groups,
such as the Shan and the Wa, that have been involved in the traditional
narcotics trade in heroin and opium, and has accepted the surrender of
opium kingpin Khun Sa.  But, Rangoon will not turn him over to U.S. custody
for trial.

Some international officials apparently agree the criticism of Burma has
been too harsh.

The representative of the U-n International Drug Control Program in
rangoon, Richard Dickins, told the Bangkok Post the tactics of isolation
and pressure have been too strong, and Burma needs to be encouraged to
change.  He said if the pressure is too harsh, it will backfire.  
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Checked-by: Richard Lake