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2002-12-16 09:22:00
Embassy Rangoon
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Tags:   SNAR  KCRM  BM 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.



E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. (A) RANGOON 1355

B. (B) RANGOON 1415

C. (C) RANGOON 1544

D. (D) RANGOON 1561

I. Summary

While Burma is the world's second largest producer of illicit
opium, its overall production in 2002 was actually only a
fraction of its production in the mid-1990s. According to
the joint U.S./Burma opium yield survey, opium production in
Burma totaled no more than 630 metric tons in 2001, down more
than 26 percent from a year earlier, and less than
one-quarter of the 2,560 metric tons produced in Burma in


Over the past several years, the Burmese government has
significantly extended its counternarcotics cooperation with
other states. In 2001, it signed counternarcotics MOUs with
both China and Thailand, and, in both 2001 and 2002, joined
with China in joint operations in northern and eastern Shan
State which resulted in the destruction of several major drug
trafficking rings, including one group which the Chinese
called one of the largest "armed drug smuggling groups in the
Golden Triangle area." Cooperation with Thailand was
interrupted by tensions on the border during the summer of
2002, but has been revived as tensions have eased.

In 2002, Burma also responded to rising international
concerns regarding the quality of its anti-money laundering
regime by enacting a powerful new money-laundering law that
criminalizes money laundering in connection with virtually
every type of major criminal activity. The first
investigations under this law began in July, resulting in the
seizure of several hundred thousand dollars in assets.

Burma is a party to the 1961 UN Single Convention, the 1971
UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1988 UN
Drug Convention. It has also announced that it will shortly
adhere to the 1972 Protocol to the 1961 Single Convention.

II. Status of Country

Burma is the world's second largest producer of illicit
opium. However, its overall production in 2001 was actually
only a fraction of its production in the mid-1990s.
According to the joint U.S./Burma opium yield survey, opium
production in Burma totaled no more than 630 metric tons in
2002, down 26 percent from a year earlier, and less than
one-quarter of the 2,560
metric tons produced in Burma in

1996. Approximately half of this decline reflects a decline
in acreage under cultivation (which dropped by more than half
to only 78,000 hectares in 2002). The remainder was due to
lower yields (now only about 8 kilograms/hectare) throughout

Burma also plays a role in the regional traffic in
amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS). Drug gangs based in the
Burma/China and Burma/Thailand border areas annually produce
several hundred million methamphetamine tablets for markets
in Thailand, China, and other Southeast Asian states on the
basis of precursors imported from neighboring states. Burma
itself does not have a chemical industry and does not produce
any of the precursors for methamphetamine or other artificial
drugs. Neither is there any significant market in Burma for

Burma has a small, but growing drug abuse problem. While the
government maintains that there are only about 70,000
registered addicts in Burma, surveys conducted by UNDCP,
among others, suggest that the addict population could be as
high as 300,000 (i.e., still less than 1 percent of the
population), with opium the major source of addiction. There
is also a growing HIV/AIDS epidemic, linked in part to
intravenous drug use. According to surveys, 57 percent of
all intravenous drug users in Burma have tested positive for
the HIV/AIDS virus.

Money-laundering is also an area of concern. While
international money flows through Burma are small, given the
undeveloped state of its banking system and tight government
controls on all funds transfers, the Financial Action Task
Force in June 2001 placed Burma on its list of
non-cooperating territories, because of concerns regarding
weaknesses in Burma's anti-money laundering regime. Burma
has since responded by enacting a powerful new money
laundering law, seizing assets, and preparing prosecutions in
several major cases.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs

A. Policy Initiatives

Burma's official counternarcotics plan calls for the
eradication of all narcotics production and trafficking over
a fifteen year period, starting in 1999. The plan is to
proceed by stages, with eradication efforts coupled to
alternative development programs in individual townships,
predominantly in Shan State. Altogether, 54 townships have
been targeted, 25 of which are to be taken on during the
first five years of the program.

The government has received very limited international
assistance in support of these efforts. The most significant
is UNDCP's Wa Alternative Development Project (WADP) which is
financed by the United States, Japan and, since 2002,
Germany. A five-year, $12.1 million program, this project
encourages alternative development in a small portion of the
territory controlled by the United Wa State Army. There is
also a small, U.S.-financed project in Northern Shan State
(Project Old Soldier) and a Japanese effort to establish
buckwheat as a cash crop in the Kokang and Mong Ko regions of
northeastern Shan State. In addition, the Thai government
agreed in 2001 to extend its own alternative development
projects across the border into the Wa-controlled Southern
Military Region of Shan State.

B. Accomplishments

Narcotics Seizures: Summary statistics provided by the
Burmese police indicate that the Burmese police, army, and
the Customs Service together seized approximately 1,631
kilograms of raw opium, 285 kilograms of heroin, and 8.8
million methamphetamine pills during the first ten months of

2002. This compares with seizures of 1,629 kilograms of raw
opium, 97 kilograms of heroin, and 32 million methamphetamine
pills during all of 2000. Major cases included the following:

-- In cooperation with the United States Drug Enforcement
Administration and the Australian Federal Police, Burmese
police contributed to the seizure of 357 kilograms of heroin
in Fiji in October 2000. Death sentences were eventually
handed down in Yangon for two drug kingpins connected with
this case.

-- In cooperation with Thailand, Burmese police
contributed to the seizure of 116 kilograms of heroin and 7.8
million methamphetamine tablets in February 2002. Two of the
principals behind this shipment were also eventually
convicted in Yangon and sentenced to "indefinite" (i.e.,
unending) terms in prison.

-- In cooperation with China, Burmese police have
contributed to a series of arrests and seizures throughout
2001 and 2002 all along the Chinese border. Altogether,
Burma has turned over 22 fugitives to China, including
members of one group (Tan Xiao Lin and company) which China
described as the "largest armed drug-trafficking gang in the
Golden Triangle."
-- In cooperation with the United States Drug Enforcement
Administration and China, Burmese police contributed to the
seizure of 12.5 kilograms of heroin in Hong Kong on July 11,

2002. Evidence collected in that case will provide the
basis for one of the first prosecutions in Burma under the
GOB's new money laundering law.

-- In cooperation with Thailand and the U.S. Drug
Enforcement Administration, Burmese police arrested Yang
Chia-ho, a Kokang Chinese who is reportedly a confederate of
the notorious Wa captain, Wei Hsueh Kang. Yang Chia-ho was
taken into custody together with more than 5 million
methamphetamine tablets and 41 kilos of heroin in Tachileik,
Burma on October 4, 2002.

Arrests and Prosecutions: Over the past fourteen years, the
Burmese government has made almost 90,000 arrests on
drug-related charges. Of those arrested, 42 were eventually
sentenced to death, 37 were given life imprisonment, and an
additional 12,500 were given prison terms of more than 10
years. During the first eight months of 2002, Burma has
arrested another 4,148 suspects. It has also continued with
prosecutions. Altogether, the Burmese government has brought
more than 4,000 separate cases against narcotics traffickers
over the past two years; 2,592 of these cases were prosecuted
in 2001; 1,475 during the first seven months of 2002. Of
these cases, 172 were dismissed for lack of sufficient
evidence and 259 defendants were acquitted. The remainder (a
total of 3,853 over the full nineteen months) were convicted.
Six were given the death penalty; 137 were given "unlimited"
sentences; 10 were given life sentences; and 1,927 were given
sentences in excess of 10 years. The remainder were given
sentences of less than 10 years.

Refineries: The GOB destroyed 14 heroin labs in 2001 and 7
through the first nine months of 2002. It has also destroyed
6 meth labs during the first nine months of 2002.

Precursor Chemicals: In 2002, the Ministry of Health issued
notification No. 1/2002 identifying 25 substances as
precursor chemicals and prohibiting their import, sale, or
use in Burma. Seizures of precursor chemicals during the
first nine months of 2002 included 1,220 kilos of ephedrine,
2,908 kilos of acetic anhydride, and 21,552 kilos of other
chemicals. In 2001, the totals were 3,922 kilos of
ephedrine, 12,318 liters of acetic anhydride, and 174,191
liters of other chemicals.

Eradication: The GOB eradicated more than 50,000 acres of
opium poppy over the past two crop years. Of this, 26,113
acres were destroyed during the 2000/01 crop year; 25,862
acres during 2001/02. In addition, the GOB burned 164,000
kilos of poppy seeds capable of seeding more than 40,000
hectares during the six month period between April and
October 2002. According to the Burmese government, the
destruction of those seeds, together with law enforcement
actions is expected to reduce the acreage under opium
cultivation by about half in 2003.

C. Law Enforcement Measures

Drug-enforcement efforts in Burma are led by the Central
Committee for Drug Abuse Control (CCDAC), which is comprised
of personnel from various security services, including the
police, customs, military intelligence, and the army. CCDAC
now has 18 drug-enforcement task forces around the country,
with most located in major cities and along key transit
routes near Burma's borders with China, India, and Thailand.
As is the case with most Burmese government entities, CCDAC
suffers badly from a lack of adequate resources to support
its law-enforcement mission.

The legal framework for Burma's law enforcement efforts is
provided by its 1993 Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic
Substances Law. As demanded by the 1988 UN Drug Convention,
that law contains legal tools for addressing money
laundering, the seizure of drug-related assets, and the
prosecution of drug conspiracy cases.

Burma was placed on the Financial Action Task Force's list of
non-cooperating territories in June 2001 because of
continuing deficiencies in its anti-money laundering regime.
In response, the GOB enacted a powerful new money laundering
law in 2002 which criminalized money laundering in connection
with most major offenses. A Central Control Board chaired by
the Minister of Home Affairs was established in July;
training for financial investigators was conducted in Rangoon
and Mandalay in August and September; the initial
investigations were begun in July; and, using the provisions
of the law, assets have been frozen and/or seized in several
major narcotics-related cases. The first prosecutions under
the new law should take place within the next several months.
With assistance from UNDCP, the Burmese government is also
in the process of drafting a new mutual legal assistance law,
which should lay the groundwork for judicial and law
enforcement cooperation across borders in the prosecution of
money laundering and other cases.

In 2000 and 2001, the Burmese government also launched its
first major campaigns against trafficking by former insurgent
groups. In November 2000, the GOB took advantage of a mutiny
within the Mong Ko Defense Army to seize Mong Ko and put that
band and its leader, Mong Sa La, out of the narcotics
business. It also sharply stepped up its pressure on the
Kokang Chinese, who missed their year 2000 target for
establishing an "opium free" zone throughout their
self-administered territories. Starting in September 2001,
the Burmese joined with the Chinese government in a series of
joint operations which resulted in the destruction of heroin
factories and meth labs throughout the Kokang Chinese Special
Region No. 1 and the arrest of major traffickers.

In 2001, for the first time, the government also established
a police and military intelligence presence in the Wa
territories. In March, 2002, it demanded that new
counternarcotics decrees be issued by the Wa, the Kokang
Chinese, and other cease-fire groups. Those decrees outlawed
participation in any aspect of the narcotics trade. In April
and May 2002, the GOB also demanded and received cooperation
from the United Wa State Army in bringing to heel several
major fugitives wanted by China. In addition, it has closed
down the liaison offices of armed groups like the United Wa
State Army, and of companies associated with those groups in
Tachileik, Myawaddy, and other towns on the Thai/Burmese
border. Finally, the GOB continued efforts to hold
cease-fire groups to their pledges to end opium production in
their territories. U Sai Lin's Special Region No. 4 around
Mong La has been opium-free since 1997 and the Wa are, thus
far, on track to eliminate opium by 2005. The Kokang Chinese
missed their opium-free target (scheduled for the year 2000),
but have paid a heavy price for that failure in terms of
increased attention from both the Burmese and the Chinese
In 2001, the GOB also began a crackdown on the array of
militias (some government-sponsored Ka Kwe Ye; i.e., village
defense forces, and others the remnants of former insurgent
bands) that the GOB had previously allowed to cultivate opium
in the Kutkai-Lashio region of northern Shan State.
According to military intelligence officials, with peace now
prevailing in most of the countryside and the government no
longer in need of the local security services these groups
provided, steps are now being taken to slowly claw back their
privileges, including the right to grow and traffic opium.

D. Corruption

There is no evidence that the Burmese Government is directly
involved in the drug trade. However, officials, particularly
army and police personnel posted in outlying areas, have been
prosecuted for drug abuse and/or narcotics-related
corruption. According to the Burmese government, over 200
police officials and 48 Burmese Army personnel have been
punished for narcotics-related corruption or drug abuse
between 1995 and May 2002. Of the 200 police officers, 130
were imprisoned, 16 were dismissed from the service, 7 were
forced to retire, and 47 were demoted.

E. Agreements and Treaties

Burma is a party to the 1961 UN Single Convention, the 1971
UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1988 UN
Drug Convention. It has also announced that it will shortly
adhere to the 1972 Protocol to the 1961 Single Convention.
In addition, is also one of six nations (Burma, Cambodia,
China, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam) that are parties to UNDCP's
sub-regional action plan for controlling precursor chemicals
and reducing illicit narcotics production and trafficking in
the highlands of Southeast Asia. The GOB has signed bilateral
drug control agreements with India in 1993, with Bangladesh
in 1994, with Vietnam in 1995, and with the Russian
Federation, Laos, and the Philippines in 1997.

Burma is part of every major multilateral narcotics control
program in the region. In November 2001, Burma agreed to
contribute to the ACCORD plan of action, which serves as an
umbrella for a variety of global programs aimed at
strengthening the rule of law, promoting alternative
development, and increasing civic awareness of the dangers of
drugs. It has also supported the 1993 Memorandum of
Understanding that was signed among the six regional states
-- Burma, China, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia -- to
control narcotics production in Southeast Asia.

In 2001, Burma signed additional counternarcotics MOUs with
China (in January) and Thailand (in June). The MOU with
China, in particular, laid down the ground rules for joint
operations, which in turn led to a series of arrests and
renditions of major traffickers during the spring and summer
of 2001 (see below).

Burma's MOU with Thailand commits both countries to closer
police cooperation in narcotics control. In August 2001,
both countries also agreed to establish joint "narcotics
suppression coordination stations" in the Chiang
Rai/Tachileik, Mae Sot/Myawaddy, and Ranong/Kawthoung border
areas. In addition, during Secretary 1 Khin Nyunt's
September visit to Thailand, Thailand also offered 20 million
baht (about $440,000) for the establishment of a new
alternative development program in the Southern Military
Region of Shan State, which is now occupied by the United Wa
State Army.

This nascent counter-narcotics cooperation between Thailand
and Burma was interrupted by tensions on the border during
the summer of 2002. However, as tensions have eased,
cooperation has resumed.

Finally, Burma has continued its operational cooperation with
DEA, the Australian Federal Police, and other western and
regional police agencies. In April, that cooperation
resulted in the arrest of two Burmese citizens who were
accused of exporting 357 kilograms of heroin to Fiji (see
above). Both have since been tried, convicted, and sentenced
to death.

F. Cultivation and Production

According to the US/Burma Joint Opium Yield Survey, opium
production declined in Burma for the sixth straight year in

2002. The survey found that the maximum potential yield for
opium in Burma in 2002 totaled only 630 metric tons, down 235
metric tons (or approximately 26 percent) from 2001. Over the
past six years, opium production in Burma has declined by
more than 75 percent, from an estimated 2,560 metric tons in
1996 to only 630 metric tons in 2002. The area under
cultivation has dropped by more than half, from 163,100
hectares in 1996 to approximately 78,000 acres in 2002.
Yields have similarly been cut by more than half, from an
estimated 17 kilograms per hectare in 1996 to levels (about
8.0 kilograms per hectare in 2001) that are now comparable to
those in neighboring states such as Laos.

Results from a UNDCP-sponsored census survey throughout Shan
State in 2002 largely corroborated these results. According
to UNDCP, Burma produced approximately 828 metric tons of
opium on 81,000 hectares of land in 2002.

G. Drug Flow/Transit

Most ATS and heroin in Burma is produced in small, mobile
labs located in the Burma/China and Burma/Thailand border
areas, primarily in territories controlled by active or
former insurgent groups. A growing amount of methamphetamine
is reportedly produced in labs co-located with heroin
refineries in areas controlled by the United Wa State Army,
the Kokang Chinese, and the Shan State Army - South. Heroin
and methamphetamine produced by these groups are trafficked
primarily through China, Thailand and, to a lesser extent,
Laos, India, Bangladesh, and Burma itself.

Precursors for the trade are primarily produced in India,
China, Thailand, and other regional states. Burma does not
have a chemical industry and does not produce ephedrine,
acetic anhydride, or any of the other chemicals required for
the narcotics trade. Similarly, the major markets for all of
these narcotic drugs lie in neighboring states. Relatively
little is sold in Burma itself.

H. Demand reduction

The overall level of drug abuse is low in Burma compared with
neighboring countries. According to the GOB, there are only
about 70,000 "officially registered" drug abusers in Burma.
While this is undoubtedly an underestimate, even UNDCP
estimates that there may be no more than 300,000 people
(still less than 1 percent of the population) who abuse drugs
in Burma. Most, particularly among the older generation, use
opium, but use of heroin and synthetic drugs is rising,
particularly in urban and mining areas.

Burmese demand reduction programs are in part coercive and in
part voluntary. Addicts are required to register and can be
prosecuted if they fail to register and accept treatment.
Altogether, more 21,000 addicts were prosecuted for failing
to register between 1994 and April 2002.

Demand reduction programs and facilities are strictly
limited, however. There are six major drug treatment centers
under the Ministry of Health, 49 other smaller detox centers,
and 8 rehabilitation centers which, together, have reportedly
provided treatment to about 55,000 addicts over the past 9
years. There are also a variety of narcotics awareness
programs conducted through the public school system.
According to UNDCP, approximately 1,200 high school teachers
participated in seminars, training programs, and workshops
connected with these programs in 2001. In addition, the
government has established demand reduction programs in
cooperation with INGOs. These include programs with CARE
Myanmar, World Concern, and Population Services
International, all of which focus on injecting drug use as a
factor in the spread of HIV/AIDS.

IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives

A. Policy and Programs

Direct USG counternarcotics assistance to Burma has been
suspended since 1988, when the Burmese military suppressed
the pro-democracy movement. The USG now engages the Burmese
government in regard to narcotics control only on a very
limited level. DEA, through the U.S. Embassy in Rangoon,
shares drug-related intelligence with the GOB and conducts
joint drug-enforcement investigations with Burmese
counternarcotics authorities. Other U.S. agencies have
conducted opium yield surveys in the mountainous regions of
the Shan State in 1993, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001,
and 2002 with essential assistance provided by Burmese
counterparts. These surveys give both governments an
accurate understanding of the scope, magnitude, and changing
geographic distribution of Burma's opium crop.

The U.S. Government regularly urges the Burmese government to
continue to take steps to curb narcotics production and
trafficking. Specifically, we have encouraged the Burmese
government to:

-- Comply with the provisions of UN Drug Conventions by
taking demonstrable and verifiable actions against high level
drug traffickers and their organizations;

-- Increase opium eradication and significantly increase
seizure rates for opium, heroin, and methamphetamines;
control the diversion of precursor chemicals; and destroy
significantly more heroin and methamphetamine laboratories;
-- Continue cooperation with China and Thailand and expand
cooperation to other neighboring countries such as India;

-- Enforce existing money laundering laws, including asset
forfeiture provisions, and fully implement and enforce
Burma's new money laundering legislation;

-- Prosecute drug-related corruption, especially corrupt
government and military officials who facilitate drug
trafficking and money laundering; and

-- Expand demand reduction, prevention and drug treatment
programs to reduce drug use and control the spread of

B. Bilateral Cooperation

USG counternarcotics cooperation with the Burmese regime is
restricted to basic law-enforcement operations. The U.S.
provides no bilateral material or training assistance. DEA's
liaison with Burmese policy makers and military officials --
conducted mainly through DEA's office in Rangoon -- focuses
on providing intelligence on enforcement targets and
coordinating investigations of international drug-trafficking

C. The Road Ahead

The Burmese government has committed itself in recent years
to effective counternarcotics measures, has found major
regional allies (particularly China) in this fight, and has
built up the capacity to identify and punish drug traffickers
and major trafficking organizations, even within the context
of very limited resources. Based on experience in dealing
with significant narcotics-trafficking problems elsewhere in
the world, the USG recognizes that large-scale and long-term
international aid -- including development assistance and
law-enforcement aid -- would help curb drug production and
trafficking in Burma. However, recurring human rights
problems have limited international support of all kinds,
including support for Burma's law enforcement efforts. The
USG believes that the Government of Burma should continue to
combat corruption, enforce its narcotics and money-laundering
legislation, and deal with drug abuse. Its efforts have
produced measurable results. Continued, they could lead to a
sustained reduction in all forms of narcotics production and
trafficking from an area that has been one of the world's
major drug trafficking centers.



ERADICATION (ACRES) 25,862 26,113


OPIUM (METRIC TONS) 1.631* 1.629
HEROIN (METRIC TONS) .285* .097 .171

CANNABIS (Metric Tons) N/A .284 .602


ARRESTS 4,148*** N/A
HEROIN USERS (Thousands) N/A N/A
OPIUM USERS (Thousands) N/A N/A

* - during first 10 months of 2002
** - during first 9 months of 2002
*** - during first 8 months of 2002