November 10: Wily foresighted rebel army groups in Burma, faced with gradually increasing attacks by government forces, have radically increasing the production and stockpiling of drugs, over the past six months, to be sold in Thailand and across their world network to buy missiles and arms to combat the Burmese Army.
Drug trafficking across the sieve-like border between Burma and Thailand apparently soared ahead of the general election held Sunday, Nov7, as the Burmese government attempted to de-fang the rebels by enlisting them as border guards. The recent Mae Sot incident between members of breakaway Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) faction and the Burmese military was just one incidence of the rebels defying the government’s attempt to corral them. The DKBA faction in question was one that broke away from the main body, determined to maintain their independence and not be turned into government stooges, as well as demonstrating their disdain for the ‘fixed’ sham elections.
Activist sources announced over the past two days that rebel army groups are joining in a combined effort to combat government forces. These include the DKBA faction, and the armies of Kachin Independence, United Wa State, Shan State, New Mon State and the Karen National Liberation Army. Ongoing clashes are expected which will further swell and the refugee exodus, as well as radically increase the flow of drugs across the border as the rebels further step up production to buy arms, including surface-to-air missiles and AK 47s.
The Burmese-Thai drug trafficking trade is one of gargantuan proportions and includes heroin, opium, methamphetamines and amphetamines. The drug barons of the Wa State Army are thought to have the monopoly of methamphetamine production, which are manufactured in small, hidden laboratories, all the way along the mountainous border region, where they have successfully resisted government attempts to close them down.
Colonel Peeranate Gatetem, head of the Thai army’s anti-drug Pha Muang task force, said the number of drug runs had increased exponentially in the months prior to the election, as the increasingly desperate Wa, who are outnumbered and outgunned by the Burmese military, prepares for bloody confrontation.
“This year will be the biggest for amphetamines,” Peeranate predicted. “In all of last year, we intercepted 1.2million pills. This year, in just six months, already, we have seized 5million.” Despite these massive numbers, Peeranate confessed that this was merely the tip of the iceberg, something in the range of between 1% and 2% of the total trafficked across the border.
“The amphetamine trade is huge now, we think it will be around 300 to 400 million pills this year. But it is hard to know.”
Informed Burmese sources maintain the drug laboratories are working around the clock, with more under construction. The UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime confirms the arms-related increase in drug “Minority groups that feel under threat from the central government are using drug trafficking to sustain themselves and keep control of their territories,” Gary Lewis, a UN representative, said recently
The Wa ignored the election, calling the Junta illegitimate and brutal. “We protect our territory. We fight for [our] people,” a Wa spokesman said recently.” The Wa are closed-mouthed on the drug question, merely saying “Our life here is hard … we always need to make money some way, any way to feed our people. We need to survive.”
Thailand already has the world’s largest numbers of suspected yah-bah (methamphetamine) users, many of whom are recruited into the trade. Several recent incidents that indicate involvement in the cross-border drug trafficking provide tell-tale evidence purely in terms of the sheer quantities involved. One such involved a 29-year-old woman arrested on a Chiang Mai-Bangkok express by railway police, caught in possession of 80,000 methamphetamine tablets. The woman was apparently paid Bt30,000 to deliver the yah-bah from Chiang Mai to Bang Sue Railway Station in Bangkok. Another case is that of highway official Suthep Promwiharn, 41, suspected of trafficking Bt70million worth of drugs confiscated in a recent haul. In the man’s abandoned pickup was found on the Vibhavadi-Rangsit Road in Bangkok on Monday night and contained approximately 200,000 yah-bah tablets and 10 kilos of yah-ice (crystal methamphetamine) as well as guns.