Daily News- June 24- 2002- Monday

  • Myanmar to burn billion dollar drug pile to mark anti-narcotics day
  • Drug meet in Myanmar postponed due to instability: Thailand
  • Myanmar forces retake all bases from rebels: Junta

  • Myanmar to burn billion dollar drug pile to mark anti-narcotics day

    YANGON, June 24 (AFP) - Myanmar is due to destroy 1.08 billion dollars worth of drugs this week in its ongoing efforts to show it is cracking down on the booming drug trade in the military-run country, officials said Monday.

    The bonfire set for Wednesday adjacent to a new drug elimination museum in the capital Yangon is to mark the United Nations International Anti-Narcotics Day, an official told AFP, asking not to be named.

    On June 6 and 7 this month in Shan state the regime burned 102 tonnes of poppy seeds, 249 kilograms of opium, 102 kilograms of morphine powder and other drugs valued at several million dolllars.The Myanmar Times newspaper said the junta also torched 290 tons of poppy seeds and drugs worth 3.8 billion dollars.

    Although drug-burning ceremonies are regular events in Myanmar, critics argue they make a small dent in the country's massive drug industry.

    In a sign it is eager to publicise the burning, the junta has invited foreign journalists to witness Wednesday's ceremony.International correspondents were last admitted to Yangon in May for the release of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from 19 months of house arrest.

    Top Yangon anti-drugs official Colonel Kyaw Thein last month visited Washington, where his country is viewed as the world's top producer of illicit opium, and said Myanmar was continuing "good faith efforts" towards drug eradication.

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    Drug meet in Myanmar postponed due to instability: Thailand

    BANGKOK, June 24 (AFP) - A meeting on regional anti-narcotics cooperation scheduled for later this month in Myanmar has been postponed due to instability in the military-ruled state, Thai officials said Monday.

    Thamarak Issarangkun Na Ayutthaya, minister to the prime minister's office, said the quadrilateral cooperation on drugs between China, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand would not take place in June as scheduled."The meeting will be postponed because the situation in Myanmar is not calm, " he told reporters.

    Myanmar troops have been engaged in an offensive against ethnic Shan rebels who last month captured bases in Myanmar along the Thai border in a series of bloody clashes which left dozens, perhaps hundreds of fighters dead.The incidents have brought Thai-Myanmar relations to crisis level.

    Thamarak did not say who called for the postponement.He said cooperation among the four countries in the fight against the drug trade has shown success as drug production has decreased.But Chinese public security officials last month warned that poppy production had risen to "alarming heights" in the Golden Triangle region of Laos, Myanmar and Thailand, which has been labelled the largest opium and heroin production region on earth.

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    Myanmar forces retake all bases from rebels: Junta

    YANGON, June 24 (AFP) - Myanmar troops have retaken all bases overrun by ethnic rebels last month, a junta official said Monday as the regime acknowledged that 50 of its own troops were killed in the counter-offensive.

    "Myanmar military forces, supported by ethnic militias including the Wa, Lahu, Shan, and Akha, have retaken all the military bases that fell to the SURA (Shan United Revolutionary Army) during the counter-offensive launched from June 6 to June 21," military spokesman Colonel San Pwint told reporters.SURA is the junta's name for the rebel Shan State Army (SSA).

    Colonel San Pwint said that 50 of Yangon's troops were killed and more than 200 wounded during the counter- offensive. He confirmed ethnic minorities had also been killed and injured, but did not give specific numbers.Four military bases plus one police outpost had been retaken following a total of 31 skirmishes between the Yangon-allied forces and the SSA, he said.

    "Having prior knowledge of the counter-offensive they had taken up 20 strategic positions around the area and were ready to defend the bases. All of them were retaken by the evening of June 21," he said."The combined forces of the Myanmar military and ethnic militias are continuing to conduct military operations in the region, targetting SURA bases inside Myanmar territory."

    The Thais had been informed of these ongoing operations, he said."We are taking special care to see that none of our stray shells fall into Thai territory," he said.He added that the Thai military attache had been summoned in Yangon and given a verbal protest over the Thai military firing 53 artillery shells into Myanmar territory on June 23 as mopping up operations took place.

    The original clashes along Myanmar's eastern border in late May that led to the SSA taking the military bases led to relations between Thailand and its military-run neighbour spiralling to their lowest point in recent times.After both countries exchanged protest notes over the clashes Yangon unilaterally closed its border checkpoints with Thailand, blocked official visiting delegations, and launched a tirade of anti-Thai vitriol in its state press that has continued until now.Myanmar claimed the Thai military provided support to the SSA, but the Thais refute this.The two countries are yet to hold talks over the issue.

    The junta believed the SSA had some 600 rebels fighting for them, but he did not give details on the number of Yangon-allied troops.Colonel San Pwint said 45 SSA fighters had been found dead."They captured 45 enemy dead and found numerous freshly dug graves indicating more had died there," he said, adding that the junta estimated more than 100 SSA fighters were killed in total and more than 200 wounded."Government forces also recaptured about seven kinds of weapons, 91 different types of landmines, 47 bombs, 11,600 shells and ammunition," he said.

    A spokeswoman for the SSA said on Friday the rebels had withdrawn from all the bases they had earlier captured because they did not wish to fight other ethnic minorities who were joining the Yangon troops.Spokeswoman Nang Khur Hsen also said Friday that 14 SSA fighters had been killed and 25 injured, while several hundred of the junta's troops died or were wounded.

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