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<center><bold>Army chief alarmed at drug threat Border pass seen as boost
The opening of a border checkpoint in Chiang Mai is benefiting a Burmese
minority that produces amphetamines, the army chief said yesterday.
The prolonged opening of the pass in Mae Ai district had facilitated the
import of the drug, which was a social menace, said Gen Surayud
The army chief did not specify the checkpoint but was thought to be
referring to the temporary pass between Mong Yawn, in Burma, and Ban
Santondu, Mae Ai.
The pass was ordered open last July with support from Gen Boonsak
Kamhaengrithirong, former head of the National Security Council, and Gen
Chettha Thanajaro, former army chief.
The council felt opening the pass would invigorate the local economy,
with several hundred four-wheel drive vehicles having been sold
The pass is a gateway to a vast area controlled by the United Wa State
Army, accused by Thai and United States narcotics authorities as the
biggest trafficker in the Golden Triangle.
Since the opening, the area has been transformed, with the construction
of a dam, roads, water and electricity supplies, fuel storage, a school
and hospital. It is estimated the entire cost is one billion baht.
Gen Surayud felt uneasy about the development. "They sell us ya baa
[amphetamines] that help them buy materials to develop their land," he
said. "They have made a lot of money from drugs to develop their land.
"We have to consider the matter seriously because the prolonged opening
of the checkpoint will create a large number of drug addicts in
Gen Surayud said Gen Charn Boonprasert, the army chief-of-staff, had
reported back on his inspection of the northern border, where he had
found deficiencies in anti-drug measures.