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NARCOTICS Joint hunt for new drug b

Subject: NARCOTICS Joint hunt for new drug baron intensifies

February 8, 1999  
Joint hunt for new drug baron intensifies
Burmese rebel chief overshadows Khun Sa 

Subin Khernkaew 
Thai and Burmese authorities have intensified their search for the new drug
baron Wei Hsueh-kang while a problem over the spelling of names has hindered
efforts to track down illicit drug producers and traders. 
A reliable source said Wei or Prasit Cheewinnittipanya, 47, is emerging as a
powerful drug kingpin whose profile in the underworld is slowly overshadowing
retired drug warlord Khun Sa. 
He mostly controls distribution and trade of narcotics, particularly
amphetamines, along the Thai-Burmese border opposite Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai
Mae Hong Son.
The source said most of the drug production bases close to the northern Thai
border are operated by the United Wa State Army with Wei as the commander. 
Where the bases are not under the UWSA control, the operators who belong to
other minority groups still rely on its military protection from the threat of
invasion by the Rangoon troops.
The UWSA comprising of up to 5,000 soldiers has established its stronghold at
Huay Hung, opposite Mae Ai district in Chiang Mai. 
Sornsit Saengprasert, the Narcotics Control Board deputy secretary-general,
told the Bangkok Post in an exclusive interview that Burma has recommended
the names of big-time drug suspects be spelt in Chinese instead of English for
easy identification.
The matter was raised during a recent meeting on narcotic eradication in Burma
attended by representatives from Burma, Thailand and the United Nations.
Mr Sornsit said it was not the suppression operation that was the obstacle but
rather the spelling that has made capture a daunting task.
He explained since the drug suspects come from different ethnic groups, the
authorities of Thailand and Burma tend to identify them using English
Relying on pronunciations, the names are often written differently in English
depending on how they are said and heard. The result was that a suspect is
referred to by more than one name which easily creates a misunderstanding for
the two countries.
Burma felt identification would be more accurate if the names were written in
Chinese since the suspects had a Chinese name. This would help ensure the two

countries hunt the same person.
Mr Sornsit said Rangoon conceded that apart from Wei, it knew only a
handful of
drug suspects on the Thai authorities' blacklist. Part of the problem may be
attributed to spelling.
Burma pledged to quickly arrest Wei and rewrite other names into Chinese to
better assist the investigation.
Burma also presented to the meeting the documented evidence and video tape
footage of its raids on two drug manufacturing factories. 
The United States has reportedly issued arrest warrants for Wei in June last
year along with two other suspected traffickers - Yan Wanhsuan, or Lao Tai, a
former close aide of Khun Sa, and Liu Seu-po, or Kamrat Namsuwakon - on a
charge of exporting narcotic drugs into that country. Rewards were also
for their capture.
The source said before the warrant was out, Wei had often crossed into Chiang
Mai to visit his two Thai wives living in Ai and Fang districts.
Meanwhile, an amphetamine-tablet compressing machine was seized in Chiang
Mai Sai district on Saturday as it was about to be smuggled into the country.
The two men who brought in the Chinese-manufactured machine, which is capable
of producing up to 60,000 tablets per hour, escaped arrest. Police also
impounded machine spare parts which came with the delivery. 
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Last Modified: Mon, Feb 8, 1999
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