The Burmese military junta is not only running one of the world’s most repressive regimes, it is also presiding over a massive illegal drug trade.
The United Nations (UN) has confirmed that Burma has established itself as the world’s second biggest producer of opium, the base drug that heroin is made from.
The biggest is Afghanistan.
The UN says cultivation in Burma has risen by nearly 30 per cent this year and the country is now pumping out more methamphetamine as well.
King Kong Janoi reports on how the trade is propping up the military regime.
“There are a lot of high military officers involved in the massive drug trafficking trade. They are rich and act with impunity.�?
That’s Ko Toe Lwin from the Opposition National League for Democracy party.
He is deeply involved in drug addict rehabilitation programs in Burma.Experts say most of the illegal drug trade is across the Chinese boarder.
Lway Cherry is the general secretary of the Palong Women’s Organizations, who works on the Burma-China boarder.
“The Burmese military regime ignores the big opium operators that belong to the opium trade centre because they are paid corruption money. They just arrest the little fish, the poor farmers. That’s why there is a massive increase in the drug trade. More and more people in our community in Palong are becoming drug addicts and more opium is being cultivation�?.
The UN blames the increased drug production on high-level collusion, corruption, and the country’s leaky borders.
It is also the result of the success in other areas - less opium cultivated across the region has pushed up its price, making it more attractive.
But fellow activist Lway Bo Bo, says the local people are not seeing any of the money.
“It’s control by big bosses, those people who are able to invest large amounts of money. The local Palong people just become the workers in the fields. The Big bosses with links to the military benefit while the Palong people become drug addicts.�?
Burma has serious drug addiction problem.
And Ko Toe Lwin says there are no rehabilitation or education programs to help people with a drug addiction.
“The worse thing in Burma is that many parents take her drug addicted sons to the police! The police then sent them to jail. There their addiction gets worse because in jail they can get drugs easily.�?
The number of drug addicts in Burma is unknown as there no official data.
However Lway Cherry says the situation is getting worse in her community.
“There are no hospitals in there area in rural area so when women give birth or people have a fever they take opium as medicine. If they use it often it will became drug addicts. Before we did not see women using drug, now many women use drugs. It’s terrible for the children they have to leave school and go and work.�?
Cherry says one couple who were addict to drugs sold their five-year old daughter to traffickers who took her top China.
Ko Toe Lwin from the NLD party says a free press and democracy is needed to fight the drug trade and addiction.
“Because now we can not even talk about the drugs problem in Burma. The government controlled newspapers never talk about the drugs problem, so how can we educate people and solve the crisis.�?
U Khun Sein, is an editor of Shan Herald Agency for News which focuses on Burma’s ethnic Shan community.
He also is an expert on the Burmese drug trade.
He argues it’s unlikely that the military government will crackdown on the drug trade as they desperately need the money it creates.
“The military regime is building military bases around the country to maintain it’s control. As a result it’s struggling to pay all the soldiers. So they desperately need money and they are getting that in the drug trade. If we want to put an end to drug trafficking, we have put an end to the military regime and bring democracy to Burma.�?