Thaksin targets Burma drugs trade
Published by BBC News – Monday 21 April, 2003
Copyright: BBC News
The Prime Minister of Thailand, Thaksin Shinawatra, has gone to neighbouring Burma in an attempt to persuade the military government there to do more to curb the production of drugs.
The Thai authorities have launched a tough campaign against drug dealers, which has seen more than 80 people shot dead in the past week.
Since he came to office two years ago, Mr Thaksin has tried to build a more co-operative relationship with Burma, but his efforts have so far done little to reduce the flow of narcotics into Thailand from north-eastern Burma.
A former telecoms tycoon, Mr Thaksin likes to present himself as a man of action – so he has given his government until the end of April to rid Thailand of the scourge of drugs.
No surprise then, that drugs are at the top of his agenda during this visit to Burma, also known as Myanmar.
But in keeping with his emphasis on co-operation and not confrontation, Mr Thaksin will also be offering his Burmese counterparts help in developing their tourist industry.
It is doubtful, though, whether the Thai prime minister will come home with anything more than the promises of action which have been given many times before by Burma’s military rulers.
Most of the drugs coming into Thailand are produced in an area of Burma controlled by the Wa ethnic minority, who have been given a free hand by government troops in return for helping fight other ethnic rebel groups.
The Wa army still operates factories which churn out hundreds of millions of highly addictive methamphetamine pills – most of which end up in Thailand.
An added complication is that senior Thai officials are also believed to be involved in the drugs trafficking.
The high-profile anti-drugs campaign launched last week by Mr Thaksin has already resulted in the deaths of more than 80 alleged drug dealers – most of them shot in fights with police or rival gangs.
But the powerful figures who really run this lucrative trade may remain untouched.