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Drug Czar Sees Golden Traingle

Drug Czar Sees Golden Traingle

 .c The Associated Press 


Associated Press Writer 

MAE SAI, Thailand (AP) -- President Clinton's drug czar stared from a
northern Thai mountaintop Saturday across the border into Burma, the world's
biggest producer of opium and heroin. 

It was retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey's first look at the Golden Triangle,
the opium-growing jungle region where Thailand, Burma and Laos converge and
the source of up to 70 percent of the heroin entering the United States. 

``We were able to look at the border and better understand the cooperation
required to protect the people from the enormous threat of heroin coming out
of there,'' McCaffrey said. 

McCaffrey, director of the White House Office of National Drug Policy, was
visiting Thailand and Laos ahead of President Clinton's state visit to

McCaffrey is to brief Clinton on Tuesday, a day after Clinton arrives in
Bangkok from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Manila, the

Accompanied by Thai narcotics police and senior members of the U.S. Drug
Enforcement Administration, McCaffrey and his aides were given a tour of the
local narcotics trade. 

Mae Sai is a bustling trading town just opposite the Burmese town of
Tachilek. Their common border is major smuggling point for heroin, which is
derived from opium. 

Burma produced enough opium in 1995 to make about 230 tons of heroin, many
times the estimated U.S. demand of 10 tons. The United States has an
estimated 600,000 heroin addicts, but officials fear use is growing,
particularly among white working-class men and college students. 

During a quick drive along the border, McCaffrey saw a smugglers' safe house
and commercial properties owned drug kingpins. He was shown a Chinese
cemetery and an orchard in Thailand used as drop points by heroin couriers. 

Their activity is all but impossible to stop, since the smugglers are every
bit as cautious and organized as the police trying to thwart them. 

Heroin is stockpiled in Tachilek before transfer across the frontier. But
that role failed to protect Tachilek from a 1995 attack by former drug
warlord Khun Sa, who was then engaged in a war against the Burmese army. 

Khun Sa, considered one of the top heroin traffickers, was indicted in a U.S.
federal court in 1989 on drug smuggling charges. 

In January, he surrendered to Burmese authorities along with most of his
10,000-man army. Burma's military government has turned down a U.S. request
to extradite Khun Sa, who now resides near the Burmese capital, Rangoon. 

The surrender -- plus joint U.S.-Thai efforts to arrest top members of Khun
Sa's syndicate -- has slowed the heroin flow through Thailand. But Burmese
production remains high, and much of it now appears to go through China. 

The White House says Burma is not making a serious effort to combat drugs,
and the country is ineligible for foreign aid. 

AP-NY-11-23-96 1236EST 

Copyright 1996 The Associated Press.  The information  contained in the AP
news report may not be published,  broadcast, rewritten or otherwise
distributed without  prior written authority of The Associated Press.