THE BONDAGE OF OPIUM:

 

THE AGONY OF THE WA PEOPLE

 

A PROPOSAL AND A PLEA

 

 

 

 

THE PROPOSAL

 

We, the leadership of the United WA State Party (UWSP) and the United WA State Army (UWSA) propose to anyone who might be interested, that we eradicate opium growing and stop the production of heroin in all the territory controlled by the WA.  This we are willing to do. It can be done very quickly.  I have full authority to speak for the United WA State Party and the United WA State Army which has ample power to carry out this proposal.

 

 

THE PLEA

 

The plea is a necessary part of the proposal.  We need food for our people while we develop substitute crops.  Our people are already so poor that to take away opium production without giving them food would mean starvation.  Beyond that, we need help of every appropriate kind to make the transition from an opium-based economy to a new agricultural economy.

 

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"The Bondage to Opium"

 

For thirty years the WA have been trying to eradicate opium growing, but instead we have become continually more dependent on it.  Like the heroin addicts that result from the opium we grow, we, too, are in bondage.  We are searching for help to break that bondage.

 

Currently, the WA area is one of the heaviest producers of opium in Southeast Asia.  The official policy of the Burmese government is to suppress opium growing. This is a "window dressing" policy only to impress the West.   In the past, the United States has even given the Burmese aid to carry out the policy. While, in fact, the Burmese officials encourage opium growing and enable its marketing for their own benefit.  They take their "cut" -- the major "cut".

 

The WA people have been pawns in the violent, destructive games of others.  We have been used as fighters for both the Ne Win government and in the Burma Communist party's military arm.  Neither army was under WA officers.  The WA fought other people's wars in return for food and clothes.  Finally, we have come to realize that we were being used to kill each other off.

 

Ne Win through the Burma Socialist Program Party indirectly encouraged the growing of opium while Ba Thein Tin of the Burma Communist Party urged the WA people to do so.

 

When we WA came to understand that we were being used to kill each other, we decided to revolt.  In April 1989 we rejected the BCP leadership and sent the leaders to China.  We made a peace agreement with the SLORC in October 1989 not because of any sympathy with the Burmese but to preserve what we had left of our people and homes.  We were left war weary -- twenty-two years war weary -- destitute, and opium dependent.  We were also left with an army large enough to control our own area and to assure a time of peace.

 

Since 1989 we have become a unified WA people, with WA leaders. For the first time ever we can speak and act as one people.  For the first time, we can hope to escape opium dependence.  It is now possible to stop opium growing in our area.

 

 

Development:

 

Now we want to free ourselves from slavery to an opium economy.  It is in our interest and, we think, in the interest of the rest of the world to stop opium growing.  This we cannot do by ourselves.  Like the heroin addict who wants to "kick" his addiction, we need outside help to be successful.  We have the determination; we need the support.

 

First, and most immediately, we will need food for our people.  If we ask them to relinquish their present means of livelihood, we will have to provide subsistence.  Our people are so poor that they cannot risk any kind of change in agriculture unless there is assurance that they will not starve.  Also, where they are pressured by outsiders to grow opium, they cannot risk stopping without the protection which assures their safety.

 

During the twenty-two years of warfare more than 12,000 WA were killed leaving thousands of orphans and widows and countless wounded-disabled.  We struggle to care for these dependent people without any outside agencies to help and with no internal care structure or agencies.

 

For a transition period we will have to feed our people.  We have neither the food to give nor the money to buy it.  Food is necessary to start the process of opium eradication and rehabilitation of the WA country.  Relief food is sent all over the world from generous donor countries to starving peoples, some of whom currently are turning back relief convoys for political reasons.  We would not be like Bosnia.  We would welcome and expedite the distribution of  food, but we will not want our people to starve first in order to get it.  Food must come along with the cessation of opium growing not sometime afterwards.

 

In contrast to the usual famine relief, temporary food support for the WA people would do more than just feed hungry people.  Beyond that, it would enable the destruction of  the opium economy and be the critical starting place for the recovery of the WA people and the development of a whole new economy.

 

Second, beyond subsistence, we not only want to rehabilitate our area, we want to develop it.  The cultivation of opium substitute crops is crucial.  Crop substitution has worked in Thailand.  It can work in the WA area.  We want the help necessary to make it happen.

 

We need to diversify our agriculture.  We need improvements in seed stock and in breeding livestock.  We need to learn more productive agricultural practices.  None of the international aid programs that have helped other peoples develop their agriculture have reached us.  First, due to war and now due to isolation enforced by the Burmese.

 

Third, we sorely need to construct roads and to develop infrastructure that will support a new economy.  At present there are no paved roads in WA area, not even any graveled roads. The roads that exist are hand hewn and follow pre-existing footpaths or are strategic roads designed only to get artillery to the top of the hill. These are passable only during the dry season.  There are no engineered roads designed for vehicular traffic.  Roads and other improvements reported in the Burmese press were constructed only in the news media.

 

Fourth, modern medical care is non-existent.  There are no hospitals, not even any clinics.  We need medicines.  We need medical treatment facilities.  We need medical training facilities.  We need rehabilitation for our disabled, and care centers for our orphans.  We are doing what we can on our own.  We will establish sixteen care centers for the blind and the disabled.  We have started to level the ground for the first center.

 

Fifth, we need schools. The vast majority of the WA have no formal education.  There are only a few informal primary schools taught by teachers who themselves have been only to primary schools.  These have to be self-supporting.  There is no educational system.  Few children can attend a school even where there is one.  They are needed to work to get food.  We want schools to train leaders.  We want to make our people literate.  We also want to preserve, develop and spread our culture, our traditions and our customs. We want to focus and highlight our WA identity. We want to give our people what is rightfully theirs but what had been shattered by constant war.

 

Sixth, we need help to reforest our denuded hillsides, and to find what natural  resources are in our area.  We desperately need all kinds of developmental help -- grants, loans, technical advice, agricultural aid.  We welcome it from any source.

 

 

Democracy:

 

Our political goal is to restore real democracy for all of Burma, a democracy in which the majority rules, but equally important, where minority rights are protected even if the minority is a minority of one person.  We will strive for the equality of all citizens.

 

The democracy we seek is not the sham "democracy" of SLORC.  Their bogus election was a charade for the purpose of pleasing the West.  It did not result in the transfer of power to  those overwhelmingly elected.  It did, however, identify the leaders of the political opposition who were then systematically threatened, jailed, put under house

arrest, or hunted down.  Aung San Suu Kyi, U Nu, and U Tin Oo are only the most noted examples.  Others less well known did not fare so well.

 

We want the restoration of WA State within Burma.  We are not separatists, but we want some autonomy for our people.  Under the British and until 1962 there was a WA State in the northeastern corner of Burma.  After Ne Win's 1962 coup, his government redrew the map.  WA State just disappeared.  It was swallowed up in Shan State.  We have historic roots in and an historic claim to the area east of the Salween River from Ko Kang south to the Thai border.  We want to administer the area as part of a federal union in Burma.

 

We are not asking for arms.  We are not asking the United States to buy our opium crop as Khun Sa does.  We do not want to put on a show as SLORC does for the West.  We are taking the initiative of offering to stop opium growing.  The WA leadership can stop the opium growing and refining at any time, but our people must eat.

 

Finally, the top priorities of the United WA State Party and United WA State Army are:

 

                        1. Eradication of opium in the WA State.

                       

                        2. Achievement of the WA Autonomous Region.

 

                        3. Rehabilitation and development of WA State.

 

                        4. Restoration of real Democracy in Burma

 

 

We want a better life for our people which can only begin by breaking the bondage to an opium dependent economy.  You want a better life for your people which means a life without heroin.  It is to our mutual advantage to work together.  Please, accept our proposal and respond to our plea.

 

 

Yours truly

 

Saw Lu