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BP: Anti-drug battle must get serio

Subject: BP: Anti-drug battle must get serious 

May 9, 1999  


Anti-drug battle must get serious
An extraordinary meeting took place last week in a luxurious Bangkok
setting. It
was attended by officials from the three countries which make up the infamous
Golden Triangle of drugs trafficking-Thailand, Laos and Burma. The gathering
lasted three days, featured numerous speeches and excellent meals.
released no new information, and decided that the only thing they needed was
more money.
The conference was sponsored by the ministers who are nominally in charge of
fighting drugs in the three countries. That may have been the first
mistake. In
Thailand, an ugly jurisdictional battle has hurt the anti-drug fight. The
interior ministry and sections of the prime minister's office are involved in
an unseemly dispute which unfortunately appears to narrow down to who will
control the new, increased anti-drug budget.
In the case of Burma, the government is far too cozy with drug traffickers to
be trusted. The nation has highly capable police and local officials who
are at
least as dedicated to battle the narcotics scourge as their Thai and Lao
counterparts. But the best Burmese agents are hamstrung by lack of support-or
outright interference-from above.
Top Laotian ministers have largely shaken off their dependence on narcotics
traffickers of 20 years ago. But they insist the only drug problem in Laos is
opium abuse.
At the end of their Bangkok meeting, this international group made a decision.
They will write a letter to several foreign countries-unnamed in public-whose
factories make chemicals for drug-making. The agreement by top
drug-fighters to
write a letter hardly ranks up there with important international narcotics
By contrast, the two government leaders of China and Thailand showed that
proved "high-ranking" not a synonym "inept." In far less time than the Bangkok
conferees, Prime Ministers Chuan Leekpai and Zhu Rongji made far more
advances. They agreed, for example, that international cooperation was
urgent-and then acted on it. There are to be increased contacts between
anti-drug agents in the North and in Yunnan.
This is an important step taken by the two leaders. The participants in the
ineffective Bangkok meeting would do well to think about it. The decision

by Mr
Chuan and Zhu gives the highest stamp of approval to decentralising the drug
battle. By increasing the contacts, several important gains are quickly made.
The first is personal contact between the men and women actually involved at
the sharp end of the stick. They see and deal with drug trafficking and the
human problems it creates on a day-to-day basis. Mr Chuan and Mr Zhu, to
put it
bluntly, have taken taxpayer money that might have been used on hotels,
restaurants and care of high-ranking officials. They have reallocated it to
communities, districts and provinces where the drug problem actually exists.
There is a real need for meetings and contact between the ministers and
high-ranking officials of neighbouring countries. But last week's three-nation
meeting in Bangkok set an extremely low standard on planning and
The drugs problem is neither new nor particularly mysterious at the strategic
level. The officials at last week's meeting let us all down with their
ineffective speech-making. No one doubts, or needs to hear, that drugs
trafficking is a major threat to national and border security. This is, in
fact, an established cornerstone of present-day Thai policy. We expect the top
men and women involved in fighting drugs to meet and to make meaningful
decisions. We expect them to move the battle forward, not sideways.
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© Copyright The Post Publishing Public Co., Ltd. 1999
Last Modified: Sun, May 9, 1999
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