The Great Debate UK
from The Great Debate:
By Federico Varese
The opinions expressed are his own.
Hillary Clinton had many "hard issues" to tackle during her recent visit to Myanmar. Yet there was no mention of one of the most, if not the most, difficult issue Burma faces: their lucrative drug trade.
Northern Burma is the home of the “Golden Triangle,” a hub for opium production and the location of hundreds of heroin and amphetamine refineries. So how do political leaders and the international community plan to tackle this problem in the event that Burma truly becomes a democratic country?
The totalitarian regime which has ruled Burma since 1962 has been, to a point, successful in keeping the production of illicit substances under control. In 1999, Burma's notorious military junta (which is now dissolved) started a ruthless elimination plan of opium in the Golden Triangle (the Shan State, the Wa Region and the Kachin State). The region produced one-third of the world's opium in 1998, but that figure was down to about 5% nine years later. From 2006 to 2007, the army eradicated 8,895 acres of opium fields. A 2007 United Nations Report trumpeted that “a decade-long process of drug control is clearly paying off.”
The actual story is a little more complicated. The regime did manage to reduce opium production, but this policy led to an increase in the production of amphetamines, methamphetamine in particular. The U.N. estimated that at least 700 million tablets were shipped from Burma to Thailand in 2003 alone, which is about 20 tons of methamphetamine, or 7.5% of what is manufactured globally.
- Soe Paing is Director of the Office of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, based in the U.S. The opinions expressed are his own. -
The arrest and the filing of criminal charges against Aung San Suu Kyi for alleged violation of house arrest rules under Section 22 of the 1975 State Protection Law or “Law to Safeguard the State Against the Dangers of Those Desiring to Cause Subversive Acts” indicate that the incumbent military regime in Burma is not interested in the offer of Aung San Suu Kyi’s party — National League for Democracy (NLD) — to join the elections scheduled for 2010 if certain conditions are met.
If statements of concern were enough to influence the brutal dictatorship ruling my country, then opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of Burma would have been freed many years ago. It is impossible to count the number of statements from world leaders condemning the dictatorship, whether it be for imprisoning Aung San Suu Kyi, crushing democracy uprisings, or blocking aid after Cyclone Nargis last year.