Burma would 'welcome' US anti-drugs support

Oct 12, 2009 (DVB), Support from the United States in Burma's anti-narcotics efforts would be welcomed by the junta, state media reported yesterday.

The US "is willing to work together with Myanmar [Burma] in combating narcotic drugs," an article in the New Light of Myanmar newspaper said, whilst Burma is "cooperating actively with international community" on drug eradication.

"Regarding anti-narcotic drugs, Myanmar is ready to cooperate with any country and organization," it said.

The US last month listed Burma as one of three countries that have "failed demonstrably" to eradicate the production and trafficking of narcotics over the past year.

The other two, Venezuela and Bolivia, were however issued with a "national interest waiver", while Burma was threatened with further punitive measures.

Although Burma remains one of the world's leading sources of heroin, with output for 2008 measured at 410 metric tonnes, the production of synthetic drugs, particularly methamphetamine, has soared in recent years.

A haul of some five million methamphetamine (or 'yaba') pills near to the Thai-Burma border town of Tachilek last month brought the total number of tablets seized by police in Burma this year to more than 10 million.

Yesterday's newspaper report follows an announcement by the US earlier this month that it would begin direct dialogue with Burma's ruling junta, after years of isolation.

The eradication of Burma's drugs market was named a factor in increasing US cooperation with the regime, alongside the release of political prisoners and addressing concerns over Burma's nuclear ambitions.

The article claimed that the government has spent more than $US250 million on anti-narcotics programmes in the country, and $US240 million on rural development projects to compensate poppy farmers.

Much of this has been focused on the Wa region of Burma's northeastern Shan state, controlled by the ceasefire group, United Wa State Army (UWSA), who play a key role in the country's drugs trade.

Wei Hsueh Kang, an infamous drugs baron who heads the UWSA's southern command, is wanted both in the US and Thailand.

Reporting by Francis Wade

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