Friday, April 24, 2009

China sees to it Wa keeps the lid on opium production

by Khun Aung Kham
Shan Herald Agency for News

According to a recent interview, the Wa are finding it increasingly difficult to return to poppy cultivation.

“Some Burma watchers may still think we are returning to poppy cultivation,” said a Wa officer who requested anonymity. “They certainly have no idea that our continued survival depends almost totally on the goodwill of China. Under this circumstance, we have very little opportunity to lift the ban (imposed in 2005).”

Indeed, alongside the motorroads inside the Wa domain, visitors no longer see poppy fields, in contrast to pre-2005 poppy seasons. The Wa supreme boss Bao Youxiang, in all likelihood, appears to be keeping his word given before the ban: “If any poppy plants are still seen after 2005, you can chop my head off,”

At least one story seems to question the sustainability. A monk from the Thai-Burma border, during this visit to Panghsang last year, asked if they still have were any poppy fields. A monk tried replied, “There are still a few and I can escort you there. Even the Wa police rarely go there. But the one closest is a two day walk from here.” The source said he declined the offer. “To this day, I’m not still sure whether he was serious or just making a joke.”

Nevertheless, the blaze that took place on 18 April, a day after the 20th anniversary of the founding of the United Wa State Army (UWSA) which was celebrated with much pomp and fanfare, had reportedly destroyed thousands of tons of teak logs, and also hundreds of barrels of precursor chemicals used in producing heroin such as Ether and Acetyl Anhydride (known as acid to the locals).

The site of the inferno reportedly belong to Wei Xuegang, a drug fugitive from Thailand and currently serving as the commander of the 171st Military region, opposite Thailand’s Mae Hong Son, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai provinces.

It remains to be seen what future Wei has with the UWSA. But it was him who had reportedly come to the rescue of the UWSA, during its early days, with B 40 million ($40,000) in cash when it was still struggling to survive following its mutiny on 17 April 1989 which toppled until-then-Beijing backed Communist Party of Burma (CPB).

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