Pro-Burma militia emerging as new drug lords
By The Nation

Burma's drug policy is a sham as authorities relies on taxes that derived from the illicit substances and the ethnic armies that have come direct command of the junta continue to conduct the illegal trade.

In a 24-page report released Wednesday, the Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN) said Burma's so-called war on drugs "has fallen way behind schedule. The report pointed to the 46 of Shan State's 55 townships still growing opium."

"This is attributed to the Burma Army's reliance on taxation of opium, and its policy to allow numerous proxy local militia to deal in drugs, including methamphetamines, in exchange for policing against resistance activity," the report said.

The status has enabled the pro-junta militia to overtake other ethnic ceasefire groups that continue to enjoy some degree of self-rule as the main drug producers in Shan State.

Most ceasefire groups that refused to come under the junta's chain of command, including the United Wa State Army, have faced increased military pressure and restrictions after refusing to come under the regime's control as Border Guard Forces.

Thai military intelligence on the Thai-Burma border said they are concerned that the dispute between UWSA and the Burmese junta could lead to an all out war that could push hundreds of thousands of villagers into the country.

Chinese officials monitoring the Sino-Burma border echoed the same concern and added that the Beijing government have been using quiet diplomacy to convince the Burmese junta to look for a peaceful solution between them and the cease-fire groups that refused to come under their chain of command.

Groups such as the UWSA has strong historical ties with the Chinese. Many of their foot soldiers today were once member of the Chinese-backed Communist Party of Burma, an outfit that fell apart in 1989.

"The junta's militias are stepping into the vacuum left by the Wa and setting up new drug refineries along the Thai-Burma border," said Khuensai Jaiyen of Shan Drug Watch. "They are being rewarded for their political allegiance to the regime."

SHAN estimated about 400 different militia groups in northern Shan State alone.

Despite increased acreage of opium in Shan State during the past 2009-2010 season, overall output was reportedly down due to adverse weather conditions, particularly the unusually dry winter, the report said.

THE NATION