Pubdate: Wed, 24 Feb 1999
Source: Reuters
Copyright: 1999 Reuters Limited.
Author: Rajan Moses 


YANGON, - More heroin produced in
Myanmar and elsewhere in Southeast Asia is heading for Australia, the
South Pacific and Canada than to the United States, a senior Interpol
official said on Wednesday.

"Southeast Asian heroin...used to make up a major percentage of the
heroin  reaching the United States. (This) has diminished
significantly and been  replaced by heroin coming out of South America
and Mexico," said Paul Higdon,  director of Interpol's Criminal
Intelligence Directorate.

"The majority...coming out of here is going to the South Pacific,
Australia and some to Canada," he told reporters on the sidelines of a
controversial international conference on heroin organised by Interpol.

Asian drug enforcement officials were focusing on these newer
trafficking  routes, he said, without giving data on quantities moved.

"That's certainly putting Australia on guard. They have to know who
the enemy is and coming to a conference like this helps," Higdon said.

Some conference delegates estimate that less than 10 percent of the
heroin  produced in laboratories in Myanmar and the poppy growing
Golden Triangle,  which straddles the borders of Myanmar, Thailand and
Laos, now makes it to the  United States.

In the past, drug officials had said up to 70 percent of Golden
Triangle  heroin found its way to the U.S. market.

The United States and most European countries declined to attend the
Interpol conference because it is being held in military-ruled
Myanmar, a major world heroin producer.

But 65 delegates from 28 countries, including Australia, Japan, New
Zealand, Switzerland, countries of the Association of South East Asian
Nations, Austria and U.N. agencies, are attending the closed-door meeting.

Some delegates said the U.S. and European countries had been missed
because they were the biggest heroin consumers.

"The conference lacks a little solidarity when you don't have everyone
here," said Higdon. "We talk about international problems and when the
whole international community joins together to address it we feel
that more is accomplished."

Vital information and data that could be shared by the Americans and
Europeans had been sorely missed.

"They are the biggest consumer markets and we could have gained from
their expertise and data," said one delegate.

The United States and the Europeans said they feared Myanmar would use
the meeting to give a false impression of its drug suppression
efforts. Absentees  also linked their refusal to attend to Myanmar's
poor human rights record.

Yangon's military rulers curb the activities of a vibrant opposition
led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and hold many political prisoners.

Higdon commended Myanmar's drug suppression efforts, despite
international  criticism of its handling of the problem. "There has
been a great deal of  seizing of essential chemicals and increased
activities in (heroin)  laboratories destructions."

Opponents of Myanmar's generals have accused them of links to the drug
trade and pointed to the government's protection of well-known heroin
traffickers like Khun Sa and Lo Hsing-han. Khun Sa is believed to live
in Yangon under government protection and Lo to be involved in
business in Myanmar.

Myanmar says keeping Khun Sa out of the drug business has helped curb
the  flow opium and heroin flow from Shan State in the northeast of
the country.

Higdon said the meeting had discussed Khun Sa.

"They (Myanmar) had to do something with insurgency...and sometimes
you have to make a pact with the devils. That's the way things are
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