Cablegate: Burma: 2003-2004 International Narcotics Control

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. STATE 328024

B. STATE 324347

I. Summary

1. Burma is the world's second largest producer of illicit
opium and the second largest cultivator of opium poppy. The
gap between Burma and the number one producer of illicit
opium and number one cultivator of poppy, Afghanistan,
increased considerably in 2003. Burma remains the primary
source of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) in Asia,
producing hundreds of millions of tablets annually. Although
still a major producer of illicit opium, Burma's overall
production in 2003 declined substantially for the seventh
straight year. According to the joint U.S./Burma opium yield
survey, opium production in Burma totaled no more than 484
metric tons in 2003, down more than 23 percent from a year
earlier, and a fraction of the 2,560 metric tons produced in
Burma in 1996. Burma's opium is grown predominantly in Shan
State, in areas controlled by former insurgent groups. Since
the mid-1990s, however, the government has elicited
"opium-free" pledges from each cease-fire group and, as these
pledges have come due, has stepped up law enforcement
activities in areas controlled by these groups. The ethnic Wa
group in northeastern Shan State has pledged to end opium
production and trafficking at the end of the 2005 poppy
harvest, but the government has done little to curb its
current cultivation and production activities. Wa cultivators
now account for approximately 52 percent of Burma's total
poppy crop. Major Wa traffickers continue to operate with
apparent impunity, and United Wa State Army (UWSA)
involvement in methamphetamine production and trafficking
remains a serious concern. During the 2003 drug certification
process, the USG determined that Burma had "failed
demonstrably" to meet its international counternarcotics

2. Over the past several years, the Burmese government has
extended significantly its counternarcotics cooperation with
other states. In 2001, it signed counternarcotics (Memoranda
of Understanding) MOUs with both China and Thailand, and has
joined with China in annual joint operations in the northern
and eastern Shan State, which resulted in the destruction of
several major drug trafficking rings, including a group that
the Chinese called one of the largest "armed drug smuggling
groups in the Golden Triangle area." Cooperation with
Thailand increased considerably in 2003 as the Thai
government pursued an aggressive domestic "drug-free" policy.
The Thai Prime Minister and other cabinet-level officials
visited Burma in 2003 to discuss counterdrug cooperation with
senior leaders of the Burmese military government.

3. The Burmese government released long-awaited money
laundering regulations in December 2003. These regulations
are designed to allow implementation of a 2002 money
laundering law which, in response to rising international
concerns regarding the quality of its anti-money laundering
regime, criminalized money laundering in connection with
virtually every type of major criminal activity. The new
regulations lay out eleven predicate offenses including
involvement in narcotics, human and arms trafficking,
smuggling, counterfeiting, hijacking, cyber crime, illegal
operation of a financial institution, and "offenses committed
by acts of terrorism." Money laundering is punishable by
imprisonment and the regulations will be applied
retroactively to June 2002.

4. Burma is a party to the 1961 UN Single Convention, the
1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and the 1988
UN Drug Convention.

II. Status of Country

5. Burma is the world's second largest producer of illicit
opium. However, eradication efforts, enforcement of
poppy-free zones, alternative development, and a shift toward
synthetic drugs have combined to depress cultivation levels
for the past three years. 2003 was the first year that
weather was not a major factor in the declining poppy
cultivation trend. According to the joint U.S./Burma opium
yield survey, the total land area under poppy cultivation in
Burma was 47,130 hectares in 2003, a 39 percent decrease from
the 77,700 hectares under cultivation in 2002. Estimated
opium production in Burma totaled approximately 484 metric
tons in 2003, a 23 percent decrease from 630 metric tons in
2002, and less than one fifth of the 2,560 metric tons
produced in Burma in 1996 (a 71 percent decline in eight
years). Although climate was not a factor in declining
cultivation in 2003, improved weather conditions during
critical growth periods did improve yields for the region's
poppy farmers. In 2003, yields rose to 10.3
kilograms/hectare, a substantial increase from the previous
year (estimated at 8.1 kilograms/hectare) and a return to the
robust yields of the early and mid-1990s though still less
than the peak level recorded in 1996.

6. Burma also plays a major role in the regional traffic in
amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS). Drug gangs based in the
Burma/China and Burma/Thailand border areas annually produce
several hundred million methamphetamine tablets for markets
in Thailand, China, and India on the basis of precursors
imported from neighboring states. Burma itself does not have
a chemical industry and does not produce any of the
precursors for methamphetamine or other artificial drugs. In
2003 there were troubling signs that a nascent domestic
market for ATS began to emerge in Burma, although
deteriorating economic conditions will likely stifle
significant growth in consumption. During the first ten
months of 2003, ATS seizures totaled less than 4 million
tablets, a decline from previous modest levels of
approximately 10 million tablets seized per year. Aside from
these seizures, the government did not take significant steps
to stop ATS production and trafficking. Opium, heroin, and
ATS are produced predominantly in Shan State, in areas
controlled by former insurgent groups. Starting in 1989, the
Burmese government negotiated a series of individual
cease-fire agreements, allowing each group limited autonomy
and a measure of development assistance in return for peace.
Initially, these agreements permitted the former insurgents
to continue their narcotics production and trafficking
activities in relative freedom. Since the mid-1990s, however,
the Burmese government has elicited "opium-free" pledges from
each cease-fire group and, as these pledges have come due,
has stepped up law-enforcement activities in the respective
cease-fire territories. Although virtually the entire opium
crop is cultivated in the eastern Shan State, there is also
minor and widely scattered cultivation in the States of Chin,
Kachin, and Kayah and in Sagaing Division.

7. In 2003, the Burmese government continued its
counternarcotics activities, primarily poppy crop
eradication, in the Kokang region of northeastern Shan State
controlled by Peng Jiasheng's Myanmar National Democratic
Alliance Army (MNDAA), which had pledged to be opium-free by
2000. The government applied only modest pressure on the Wa
in 2003, claiming it cannot crack down faster because the
Wa's opium-free pledge does not come due until the end of the
2005 poppy harvest. Premature action against the Wa, the
government claims, would jeopardize Burma's national
security, as the UWSA is a formidable military force. Under
the terms of the cease-fire agreements, the Wa and other
groups involved in the drug trade are largely immune from
government action. For instance, Burmese troops cannot enter
Wa territory without permission from the UWSA and the GOB is
unwilling to risk confronting the Wa, a potent organization
with a well-manned and well-trained military force..
However, the government continued a more aggressive stance on
its own travel in Wa territory, merely informing UWSA
officials of such visits rather than seeking advance
permission. Nevertheless, the government has yet to put
significant pressure on the Wa to stop illicit drug
production or trafficking.

8. UNODC and joint USG/GOB 2003 opium poppy survey results
demonstrated partially effective enforcement of poppy-free
zones, but may also indicate a shift toward synthetic drugs.
Substitute crops and alternative development projects that
would provide farmers economically viable alternatives to
poppy cultivation have not replaced opium production and its
profitability. For regions to become truly drug free, the
government must make a considerable commitment, assisted
where possible by the international community, to undertake
an extensive range of counternarcotics actions, including
crop eradication, effective law enforcement, and alternative
development. The government must foster cooperation between
the government and the ethnic groups involved in drug
production and trafficking, including the Wa, to eliminate
poppy cultivation and opium production.

9. The GOB must also address the explosion of ATS that has
flooded Thailand and is trafficked to other countries in the
region. A domestic market for the consumption of ATS also
emerged in Burma, a disturbing trend that, although less
significant that other societal woes, could prove to be a
destabilizing factor in the long-term. The UNODC estimated
that in 2003 there were at least 15,000 regular ATS users in
Burma. The GOB must make a firm commitment and a concerted
effort to stop production of ATS by gaining support and
cooperation from the ethnic groups, including the Wa,
involved in ATS, as well as through closing production labs
and preventing the diversion of precursor chemicals needed to
produce synthetic drugs. No ATS labs were reported destroyed
in 2003.

10. Burma has a small, but growing drug abuse problem. While
the government maintains that there are only about 70,000
registered addicts in Burma, surveys conducted by UNODC,
among others, suggest that the addict population could be as
high as 300,000 (i.e. still less than 1 percent of the
population), with opium the major source of addiction
(135,000 regular users of heroin, including up to 30,000
intravenous drug users). Recreational use of illicit drugs,
including ATS, is on the rise. There is also a growing
HIV/AIDS epidemic, linked in part to intravenous drug use.
According to surveys, 57 percent of all intravenous drug
users in Burma have tested positive for the HIV/AIDS virus.
Infection rates are highest in Burma's ethnic regions, and
specifically among mining communities in those areas, where
opium, heroin, and ATS are readily available.

11. Money laundering is also an area of concern. In November
2003 the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) called upon
member countries to impose countermeasures against Burma for
its failure to pass a mutual legal assistance law and its
failure to issue regulations to accompany the "Control of
Money Laundering Law" passed in 2002. Burma responded by
releasing new money laundering regulations on December 5,
2003, but has yet to address the mutual legal assistance law

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 2003

12. Policy Initiatives. Burma's official 15-year
counternarcotics plan calls for the eradication of all
narcotics production and trafficking by 2014, one year ahead
of an ASEAN-wide plan of action that calls for the region to
be drug-free by 2015 . The plan is to proceed by stages, with
eradication efforts coupled to alternative development
programs in individual townships, predominantly in Shan
State. Altogether, the GOB identified 54 townships for the
programs and targeted 25 of them during the first five years
of the program.

13. The government has received limited international
assistance in support of these efforts. The most significant
multilateral effort is the UN Office of Drugs and Crime's
(UNODC) Wa Alternative Development Project (WADP), which is
financed by the United States, Japan, and Germany. A
five-year, $12.1 million program, this supply-reduction
project encourages alternative development in a small portion
of the territory controlled by the United Wa State Army.
UNODC extended the project from 2003 until 2005 and expanded
the number of villages targeted for community development
work from 4 to 16. Also in 2003, the UNODC and the Japanese
government announced plans to establish an intervention in
the Wa and Kokang areas (dubbed "KOWI") aimed at supporting
the humanitarian needs of farmers who have abandoned poppy
cultivation. A joint humanitarian assessment, consisting of
UN agencies and NGOs, traveled to the Kokang and Wa areas
earlier in the year and concluded that farmers had lost up to
70 percent of their income and were increasingly susceptible
to disease, internal displacement, and food insecurity.
Several international NGOs have partnered with the UNODC, and
Japan and Italy were early donors.

14. Bilateral counternarcotics projects include a small,
U.S.-financed project in northern Shan State (Project Old
Soldier) and a substantial Japanese effort to establish
buckwheat as a cash crop in the Kokang and Mong Ko regions of
northeastern Shan State. The Thai government has since 2001
extended its own alternative development projects across the
border into the Wa-controlled Southern Military Region of
Shan State.

15. Burma hosted several multilateral counterdrug meetings
in 2003, including a precursor control meeting in January
with India, China, and UNODC; a precursor control meeting in
July with India, China, Thailand and Laos; and, in October,
the law enforcement task force of the ASEAN and China
Cooperative Operations in Response to Dangerous Drugs
(ACCORD). Burma also participated in a Mekong fact-finding
survey in July with China, Laos, and Thailand and a precursor
control meeting in Thailand that included India, China, Laos,
and Thailand. The five countries agreed on cross-border
cooperation to stop the flow of precursor chemicals among the
countries of the Mekong river sub-region.

16. The Government of Burma supported a UNODC effort in 2001
to form a "Civil Society Initiative" (CSI) to conduct
awareness activities and programs regarding the dangers of
drug abuse and HIV/AIDs. The CSI, which partnered with NGOs
and local celebrities, held a successful anti-drug concert
and marathon in 2002. However, the GOB failed to support a
two-day anti-drug music festival in 2003, which was
subsequently canceled.

17. Narcotics Seizures: Summary statistics provided by
Burmese drug officials indicate that during the first ten
months of 2003 Burmese police, army, and the Customs Service
together seized approximately 1,247 kilograms of raw opium,
488 kilograms of heroin, 78 kilograms of marijuana, 102
kilograms of methamphetamine powder, 156 kilograms of
morphine, and 4.5 million methamphetamine pills. This
compares with seizures during all of 2002 of 1,631 kilograms
of raw opium, 285 kilograms of heroin, and 8.8 million
methamphetamine pills. Heroin seizures, almost double the
previous year, were at the highest levels since 1997.
Seizures of ATS in 2003 continued a downward trend and may be
related to adjustments in trafficking patterns or to
Thailand's aggressive 2003 "drug free" policy, which greatly
reduced the market for Burma-produced ATS, at least in the
short-term. The relatively tiny amount of ATS seized (less
than 4 million tablets) had no effect on the scope of the
growing problem.

18. The Ministry of Health identifies 25 substances as
precursor chemicals and prohibits their import, sale, or use
in Burma. Seizures of precursor chemicals declined
substantially during the first ten months of 2003 and
included 266 kilos of ephedrine, 2,540 liters of acetic
anhydride, and 37,557 liters of other precursor chemicals. In
2002, the first year the GOB issued a notification
identifying illegal precursor chemicals, the totals were
substantially higher: 3,922 kilos of ephedrine, 12,318 liters
of acetic anhydride, and 174,191 liters of other chemicals.

19. Major cases in 2003:

-- In cooperation with the United States Drug Enforcement
Administration (DEA), police in India, China, Canada, and
Burma contributed to the arrest of a total of thirty
narcotics suspects in all five countries and the seizure of
approximately 36 kilograms of heroin and one ATS laboratory.
-- In cooperation with China, Burmese police contributed to a
series of arrests and seizures throughout 2003 along the
Chinese border. Since 2001, Burma has turned over 22
fugitives to China, including members of one group (Tan Xiao
Lin and company), which China described as the "largest armed
drug-trafficking gang in the Golden Triangle."

-- During a nine-day operation at the end of March near
Taunggyi in western Shan State, Burmese authorities seized
68.6 kilograms of morphine, 42 kilograms of opium, 720 liters
of precursor chemicals, and a cache of weapons and ammunition.

-- On February 1, 2003, Burmese authorities located and
dismantled a clandestine heroin refinery near Kutkai
township. A search of the site revealed 404 liters of ethyl
alcohol and other precursors and drug production

-- On July 17, 2003, Burmese authorities located and
dismantled a clandestine heroin refinery near Kutkai
township. A search of the site revealed 6 kilograms of
morphine, 86.2 liters of ether, 229.64 liters of other
precursor chemicals, and several weapons.

-- On July 19, 2003, Burmese authorities located and
dismantled a clandestine heroin refinery near Theinni
township. A search of the site revealed 10.28 kilograms of
opium, 5.6 kilograms of heroin, 141.96 kilograms of poppy
seeds, and 1,795.7 liters of precursor chemicals.
Authorities arrested five suspects.

-- On July 31, 2003, Burmese authorities located and
dismantled a clandestine heroin refinery near Kutkai
township. A search of the site resulted in the seizure of
36.4 kilograms of opium, 62.45 kilograms of heroin, 2352.6
liters of ether, 3102.6 liters of chloroform, and a cache of
weapons and ammunition.

-- On August 1, 2003, Burmese authorities in Mandalay seized
approximately 153 kilograms of ephedrine and arrested two

-- On August 21, 2003, Burmese authorities seized
approximately 529,800 methamphetamine tablets, a cache of
weapons, and ammunition and arrested one suspect.

- On August 24, 2003 Burmese police cooperated with Thai
authorities in Chiang Mai, Thailand on the seizure of 500,000
methamphetamine tablets, four firearms, and three suspects
(the three suspected drug traffickers died while in

20. Arrests and Prosecutions: In 2003, Burma arrested 3,336
suspects on drug related charges, according to official
statistics. In addition, the GOB arrested nine United W
State Army (UWSA) officers in August 2003.

21. Refineries. The government dismantled 7 heroin labs
through the first ten months of 2003, compared to 17 from the
entire previous year. The GOB destroyed no meth labs in
2003, although 6 were destroyed in 2002.

22. Eradication. The government eradicated more than 21,000
hectares (51,892 acres) of opium poppy over the past three
crop years. However, only 683 hectares were destroyed during
the 2002/03 crop year, a mere fraction of the 10,466 hectares
destroyed during the 2001/02 crop year and the 10,568
hectares destroyed during the 2000/01 crop year.
Nonetheless, overall eradication accounts for almost
one-third of the reduction in area under poppy cultivation
since 2001. In addition, during the first ten months of 2003
the government burned 164,000 kilos of poppy seeds capable of
seeding more than 40,570 hectares (100,250 acres). The
destruction of those seeds, together with law enforcement
actions, reduced the area under opium cultivation by more
than one third in 2003.
Law Enforcement Measures. The Central Committee for Drug
Abuse Control (CCDAC)--which is comprised of personnel from
various security services, including the police, customs,
military intelligence, and the army-leads drug-enforcement
efforts in Burma. CCDAC now has 18 drug-enforcement task
forces around the country, with most located in major cities
and along key transit routes near Burma's borders with China,
India, and Thailand. As is the case with most Burmese
government entities, CCDAC suffers badly from a lack of
adequate resources to support its law-enforcement mission.

23. Burma's 1993 Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances
Law provide the legal framework for the country's law
enforcement efforts. As demanded by the 1988 UN Drug
Convention, that law contains legal tools for addressing
narcotics-related money laundering, the seizure of
drug-related assets, and the prosecution of drug conspiracy
cases. The State Peace and Development Council passed a
broader "Control of Money Laundering Law" in 2002 and in
December 2003 issued regulations to implement the law.

24. In November 2003, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)
called upon member countries to impose countermeasures
against Burma for its failure, among other shortcomings, to
issue regulations to implement its 2002 money laundering
statute or to pass a mutual legal assistance law. With
assistance from UNODC, the Burmese government is in the
process of drafting a legal assistance law and, if passed and
enacted, could create a framework for judicial and law
enforcement cooperation across borders in the prosecution of
money laundering and other cases.

25. In 2002, the government, having established a police and
military intelligence presence in the ethnic Wa territories,
demanded that the Wa, the Kokang Chinese, and other
cease-fire groups issue new counternarcotics decrees. Those
decrees outlawed participation in any aspect of the narcotics
trade. The GOB also demanded and received cooperation from
the UWSA in bringing to heel several major fugitives wanted
by China. In addition, it has closed down the liaison offices
of armed groups like the UWSA, and of companies associated
with those groups in Tachileik, Myawaddy, and other towns on
the Thai/Burmese border. In December 2003, the GOB announced
an investigation of two private banks associated with the Wa
(Asia Wealth and Myanmar Mayflower), identified by the United
States as entities of "primary money laundering concern."

26. The GOB continued efforts to hold cease-fire groups to
their pledges to end opium production in their territories. U
Sai Lin's Special Region No. 4 around Mong La has been
opium-free since 1997 and the Wa are maintaining their pledge
to eliminate opium by the end of the 2005 harvest. However,
according to the 2003 joint U.S./Burma opium yield survey,
poppy cultivation increased in the Wa Special Region by over
5,500 hectares and the area now accounts for 52 percent of
Burma's total poppy crop. The Kokang Chinese missed their
opium-free target (scheduled for the year 2000), and extended
their deadline to 2003. Although much of the opium crop has
now been eliminated, the Kokang paid a heavy price in terms
of increased attention from both the Burmese and the Chinese
police. Several of the ethnic trafficking armies also control
amphetamine production labs and extensive trafficking
operations. These remain largely intact and are a major
factor in amphetamine trafficking in Southeast Asia and

27. The government continued its crackdown begun in 2001 on
the array of militias (some government-sponsored village
defense forces, and others the remnants of former insurgent
bands) that the government had previously allowed to
cultivate opium in the Kutkai-Lashio region of northern Shan
State. According to military intelligence officials, with
peace now prevailing in most of the countryside and the
government no longer in need of the local security services
these groups provided, steps are now being taken to slowly
scale back their privileges, including the right to grow and
traffic in opium.

28. In 2003, for the third-consecutive year, Burma's opium
poppy crop declined. The latest crop was 36 percent below
the previous year's level and the smallest crop in ten years.
According to USG imagery-based estimates, about 47,130
hectares of crop was cultivated during the 2002-2003 growing
seasons, down from 77,700 in 2001-2002. 2003 was also the
first year that weather was not a major factor accelerating
the drop in cultivation level. Sources of the large decline
included law enforcement, a conscious shift away from opium
to synthetic drugs by the region's drug lords, and localized
alternative development success.

29. Corruption. There is no reliable evidence that senior
officials in the Burmese Government are directly involved in
the drug trade. However, lower level officials, particularly
army and police personnel posted in outlying areas, have been
prosecuted for drug abuse and/or narcotics-related
corruption. According to the Burmese government, over 200
police officials and 48 Burmese Army personnel were punished
for narcotics-related corruption or drug abuse between 1995
and 2003. Of the 200 police officers, 130 were imprisoned,
16 were dismissed from the service, 7 were forced to retire,
and 47 were demoted. No Burma Army officer over the rank of
full Colonel has ever been prosecuted for drug offenses in
Burma. This fact, the prominent role in Burma of notorious
narcotics traffickers (e.g. the Lo Hsing Han clan, Khun Sa,
Wei Hsueh Kang, etc.), and the continuance of large-scale
narcotics trafficking over years of intrusive military rule
have given rise to speculation that some senior military
leaders protect or are otherwise involved with narcotics

30. Agreements and Treaties. Burma is a party to the 1961 UN
Single Convention, the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic
Substances, and the 1988 UN Drug Convention. In September
2003 the amended 1971 UN Protocol on Psychotropic Substances
took effect in Burma. In addition, Burma is also one of six
nations (Burma, Cambodia, China, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam)
that are parties to UNODC's sub-regional action plan for
controlling precursor chemicals and reducing illicit
narcotics production and trafficking in the highlands of
Southeast Asia.
In 2003, the Chinese and Thai governments stepped up
bilateral counterdrug cooperation efforts with Burma and,
with the GOB, established joint Border Liaison Offices (BLO)
along their respective borders to facilitate the sharing of

31. Cooperation with Thailand in particular increased
considerably in 2003 as the Thai government pursued an
aggressive domestic "drug-free" policy. Thai cabinet-level
officials visited Burma several times during the year to
discuss counterdrug cooperation with senior leaders of the
Burmese military government. Burma's 2001 MOU with Thailand
commits both countries to closer police cooperation in
narcotics control and they subsequently established joint
"narcotics suppression coordination stations" in the Chiang
Rai/Tachileik, Mae Sot/Myawaddy, and Ranong/Kawthoung border
areas. In addition, Thailand implemented a 20 million baht
(about $440,000) new alternative development program in the
Southern Military Region of Shan State, which is now occupied
by the United Wa State Army. In December, the Burmese and
Thai Prime Ministers met in Shan State to review the project
and to discuss counternarcotics cooperation,

32. While not formally funding alternative development
programs, the Chinese government has encouraged investment in
many projects in the Wa area, particularly in commercial
enterprises such as tea plantations and pig farms and has
assisted in marketing those products in China through
relaxation of duty taxes.

33. Cultivation and Production. According to the 2003
U.S./Burma Joint Opium Yield Survey, opium production
declined in Burma for the seventh straight year. The survey
found that the maximum potential yield for opium in Burma in
2003 totaled 484 metric tons, down 146 metric tons (or
approximately 23 percent) from 2002. Over the past seven
years, opium production in Burma has declined by more than 81
percent, from an estimated 2,560 metric tons in the peak year
of 1996 to 484 metric tons in 2003. The area under
cultivation has dropped by almost two-thirds, from 163,100
hectares in 1996 to approximately 47,130 hectares in 2003.
Yields have similarly been reduced, from an estimated 17
kilograms per hectare in 1996 to about 10.3 kilograms per
hectare in 2003. However, the 2003 opium/hectare yield rate
increased by about 18 percent from the previous year,
reflecting favorable weather and more intense cultivation in
Wa areas.

34. Results from a UNODC-sponsored census survey throughout
Shan State in 2003 largely corroborated the results of the
U.S./Burma Joint Opium Yield Survey. According to UNODC, the
area under poppy cultivation in 2003 declined by 23 percent
from the previous year and by 62 percent since 1996. For its
2003-04 opium survey, the UNODC's Illicit Crop Monitoring
Program (ICMP) will be extended to cover areas in Kachin and
Chin States and Sagaing Division, in addition to the entire
Shan State.

35. Drug Flow/Transit. Most ATS and heroin in Burma is
produced in small, mobile labs located in the Burma/China and
Burma/Thailand border areas, primarily in territories
controlled by active or former insurgent groups. A growing
amount of methamphetamine is reportedly produced in labs
co-located with heroin refineries in areas controlled by the
United Wa State Army (UWSA), the Kokang Chinese, and the Shan
State Army-South (SSA-S). Heroin and methamphetamine produced
by these groups are trafficked primarily through China,
Thailand, India and, to a lesser extent, Laos, Bangladesh,
and Burma itself.

36. Precursors for refining these narcotic drugs are
primarily produced in India, China, and Thailand. Burma does
not have a chemical industry and does not produce ephedrine,
acetic anhydride, or any of the other chemicals required for
the narcotics trade. Similarly, the major markets for all of
these narcotic drugs lie in neighboring states. However,
there were signs in 2003 that Burma's small domestic market
for drug consumption grew, especially the consumption of ATS.

37. Demand Reduction. The overall level of drug abuse is low
in Burma compared with neighboring countries. According to
the GOB, there are only about 70,000 "officially registered"
drug abusers in Burma. This is undoubtedly an underestimate,
and even the UNODC estimates that there may be no more than
300,000 people (still less than 1 percent of the population)
who abuse drugs in Burma. Most, particularly among the older
generation, use opium, but use of heroin and synthetic drugs
is rising, particularly in urban and mining areas. NGOs and
community leaders reported growing numbers of disaffected
youth using heroin and ATS, particularly in ethnic minority

38. Burmese demand reduction programs are in part coercive
and in part voluntary. Addicts are required to register with
the GOB and can be prosecuted if they fail to register and
accept treatment. Altogether, more than 21,000 addicts were
prosecuted for failing to register between 1994 and 2003
Demand reduction programs and facilities are strictly
limited, however. There are six major drug treatment centers
under the Ministry of Health, 49 other smaller detox centers,
and eight rehabilitation centers which, together, have
reportedly provided treatment to about 55,000 addicts (UPDATE
to include 2003 figures) over the past ten years. There are
also a variety of narcotics awareness programs conducted
through the public school system. According to UNODC,
approximately 1,200 high school teachers participated in
seminars, training programs, and workshops connected with
these programs in 2001. In addition, the government has
established demand reduction programs in cooperation with
NGOs. These include programs with CARE Myanmar, World
Concern, and Population Services International (PSI), all of
which focus on injecting drug use as a factor in the spread

IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs

39. Policy and Programs. The USG has suspended direct
counternarcotics assistance to Burma since 1988, when the
Burmese military began its suppression of the pro-democracy
movement. The USG now engages the Burmese government in
regard to narcotics control only on a very limited level.
DEA, through the U.S. Embassy in Rangoon, shares drug-related
intelligence with the GOB and conducts joint drug-enforcement
investigations with Burmese counternarcotics authorities.
Other U.S. agencies conducted opium yield surveys in the
mountainous regions of the Shan State in 1993 and 1995 and
annually from 1997 through 2003 with essential assistance
provided by Burmese counterparts. These surveys give both
governments an accurate understanding of the scope,
magnitude, and changing geographic distribution of Burma's
opium crop.

40. The U.S. Government regularly urges the Burmese
government to take additional steps to curb narcotics
production and trafficking. Specifically, the USG has
encouraged the Burmese government to:

-- Comply with the provisions of UN Drug Conventions by
taking demonstrable and verifiable actions against high level
drug traffickers and their organizations;

-- Increase opium eradication and significantly increase
seizure rates for opium, heroin, and methamphetamines;
control the diversion of precursor chemicals; and destroy
significantly more heroin and methamphetamine laboratories;

-- Continue cooperation with China and Thailand and expand
cooperation to other neighboring countries such as India;

-- Enforce existing money laundering laws, including asset
forfeiture provisions, and fully implement and enforce
Burma's new money laundering legislation;

-- Prosecute drug-related corruption, especially corrupt
government and military officials who facilitate drug
trafficking and money laundering; and

-- Expand demand reduction, prevention, and drug treatment
programs to reduce drug use and control the spread of

41. The Road Ahead. The Burmese government has committed
itself in recent years to expanded counternarcotics measures
and has made significant gains in reducing opium poppy
cultivation and opium production. The GOB has enlisted major
regional allies (particularly China and Thailand) in this
fight, and has built up the capacity to identify and punish
drug traffickers and major trafficking organizations, even
within the context of very limited resources. Based on
experience in dealing with significant narcotics-trafficking
problems elsewhere in the world, the USG recognizes that
large-scale and long-term international aid-including
development assistance and law-enforcement aid-would help
curb drug production and trafficking in Burma. However,
recurring human rights problems have limited international
support of all kinds, including support for Burma's law
enforcement efforts.

42. The USG believes that the Government of Burma should
continue to reduce opium cultivation and production, combat
corruption, enforce its narcotics and money-laundering
legislation, and deal with drug abuse. Its efforts to date
have produced measurable results. The USG strongly urges the
GOB to sustain and intensify those efforts so that its
counternarcotics efforts are commensurate with the scope of
the problem. The USG also urges the GOB to take efforts to
combat the production and trafficking of ATS and to stem the
growth of a domestic market for the consumption ATS before
this problem becomes more significant. Burma should expand
its law-enforcement campaign to the most prominent
trafficking groups and their leaders. In addition, the USG
encourages the GOB to continue its expanded efforts to
cooperate with other countries in the region. Continued and
intensified, these efforts could lead to a sustained
reduction in all forms of narcotics production and
trafficking from an area that has been one of the world's
major drug trafficking centers.

43. Statistical information: Tables e-mailed to INL/AAE and
EAP/BCLTV on 12/19/03.

Financial Crimes/Money Laundering

Suspicious activity reports:

44. Burma. (For UPDATE in Washington). An analysis by FinCEN
of the Suspicious Activity Reporting System, for the period
January 1, 2002 to October 31, 2002, revealed that there were
eight SARs that could be linked to transactions associated
with Burma. Most of the reported activity involved suspicious
wire transfer activity to or from Burma or involved a citizen
of Burma. SARs reported wire transfers originating in Tokyo,
Hong Kong, and Singapore flowing into the United States and
sent by individuals using Burmese passports for
identification. Banks identified the activity as suspicious
due to a lack of information linking the activity to
legitimate funds. Additional activity reported on the SARs
included structured cash deposits made by Burmese citizens in
an apparent attempt to avoid BSA filing requirements.

45. Burma. Renamed the Union of Myanmar by its ruling junta,
Burma has a mixed economy with substantial state-controlled
activity--mainly in energy, heavy industry, and forestry--and
with private activity dominant in agriculture, light
industry, and transport. Burma's economy continues to be
vulnerable to drug money laundering due to its
under-regulated financial system, weak anti-money laundering
regime, and policies that facilitate the funneling of drug
money into commercial enterprises and infrastructure

46. On November 3, 2003, the Financial Action Task Force
(FATF) called upon member countries, including the United
States, to impose countermeasures against Burma for its
failure to pass a mutual legal assistance law and to issue
regulations to accompany the June 2002 "Control of Money
Laundering Law" (State Peace and Development Council Law No.
6/2002). The United States took immediate action on FATF's
request, issuing on November 18 two proposed rules that would
declare Burma, and two private banks (Asia Wealth and Myanmar
Mayflower) entities of "primary money laundering concern."

47. When adopted, the rules, to be issued pursuant to the
2001 USA PATRIOT Act, will "prohibit covered financial
institutions from establishing, maintaining, administering,
or managing in the United States any correspondent or
payable-through account for, or on behalf of", the two named
banks or any other Burmese financial institution. The rules
will also prohibit any correspondent account maintained for
any foreign bank if the account is used to provide banking
services indirectly to the two named banks or any other
Burmese financial institution. The U.S. Treasury Department,
under existing sanctions, already advises U.S. financial
institutions to give enhanced scrutiny to all financial
transactions relating to Burma.

48. Unexpectedly, and perhaps in response to FATF pressure,
the Burmese government released the long-awaited money
laundering regulations on December 5, 2003. The regulations
track closely with the 2002 law and, on paper, create many of
the tools necessary for gains in addressing money laundering.
The regulations lay out eleven predicate offenses including
narcotics activities, human and arms trafficking, smuggling,
counterfeiting, hijacking, cyber crime, illegally operating a
financial institution, and "offenses committed by acts of

49. Burma's 1993 Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances
Law only criminalized narcotics-related money laundering.
The December 2003 regulations are more comprehensive and
reprise the 1993 law's requirement of suspicious transaction
reporting for banks, realtors, and customs officials. The
new regulations also impose severe penalties for
transgressors of the law, but do not yet set a threshold
limit or include a specific timetable for required submission
of suspicious transaction reports (STRs), beyond "without
delay." Money laundering is punishable by imprisonment,
and the regulations will be applied retroactively to June
2002 once threshold amounts are established.

50. The 2003 money-laundering regulations task the
government's Central Control Board on Money Laundering to
form the Burmese Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), which may
conduct investigations into money laundering cases based on
STRs. The Central Control Board, chaired by the Minister for
Home Affairs, will enforce the legislation. The Board will
set policy, direct the Investigation Body (that performs
money laundering investigations and conducts seizures),
direct the Preliminary Scrutiny Body (that ensures due
process and finalizes the case), cooperate with other
international money laundering groups, and organize
investigation teams. The legislation provides full access to
all financial records for investigators from the FIU. The
UNODC is assisting the Burmese government in its efforts to
draft a mutual legal assistance framework.

51. Burma is an observer jurisdiction to the Asia/Pacific
Group on Money Laundering and a party to the 1988 UN Drug
Convention. Over the past several years, the Government of
Burma (GOB) has significantly extended its counternarcotics
cooperation with other states. The GOB has bilateral drug
control agreements with India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Russia,
Laos, the Philippines, China, and Thailand. In 2002-2003,
Burma expanded cooperation with Thailand and China to jointly
combat trafficking in drugs and precursor chemicals in
northern and eastern Shan State. Burma has signed, but not
yet ratified, the UN International Convention for the
Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism (CONFIRM). Burma
has not signed or ratified the UN Convention against
Transnational Organized Crime, which entered into force on
September 29, 2003. Currently, Burma does not provide
significant mutual legal assistance or cooperation to
overseas jurisdictions in the investigation and prosecution
of serious crimes.

52. Burma must increase the regulation and oversight of its
banking system, and end policies that facilitate the
investment of drug money in the legitimate economy. Burma
should ensure its money laundering law is enforced fairly and
thoroughly. The GOB should also criminalize the financing
and support of terrorism. Burma should provide the necessary
resources to the administrative and judicial authorities that
supervise the financial sector and enforce the financial
regulations to successfully fight money laundering.

© Scoop Media

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