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Thailand Formally Complains To Burma About Drug Problem - 2003-08-21


Struggling to stem the flow of illegal drugs into Thailand, the government on Thursday formally demanded that neighboring Burma do more to stop the production and trafficking of methamphetamines and heroin in its border areas.

The Thai Foreign Ministry sent a letter to Gen. Khin Nyunt, the No. 3 leader in Burma's military government, after a gunbattle Wednesday near Thailand's northern border between police and 20 alleged drug smugglers. Nine of the suspects were killed.

The contents of the letter were not disclosed, but Foreign Ministry spokesman Sihasak Phuangketkeow said it seeks better cooperation from Burma in ending the production of drugs, which are almost entirely smuggled to Thailand.

Sihasak said, "We hope the Burmese government will do whatever it can to intensify efforts on their side because the suppression of drugs is very high on our government's agenda."

Amphetamine stimulants have been declared public enemy No.1 by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra whose government carried out a three-month crackdown against drug dealers this year. More than 2,300 people were killed and Thaksin claimed drug use was reduced by 90 percent after the crackdown.

The prime minister appeared incensed after Wednesday's gunbattle in Mae Ai district. Police say they found about 500,000 methamphetamine tablets and three assault rifles on the bodies of the nine people killed.

Mae Ai, about 360 miles north of Bangkok, is just across the border from Mong Yawn, a stronghold of the United Wa State Army, an ethnic guerrilla group believed to be heavily involved in the production and trafficking of illegal drugs, especially methamphetamines.

Thaksin said Wednesday that if Burma doesn't do something to "stop the Wa from making drugs...I will resolve the problem myself."

Burmese government signed a cease-fire agreement with the Wa several years ago which grants the ethnic group limited autonomy. Experts believe the government tolerates the drug activities to keep the peace.

Spokesman Sihasak said Thailand and Burma already have an agreement to cooperate "very closely together on the suppression of drugs." He said,"We hope that both sides will cooperate more closely on the suppression of drugs and narcotics, especially along the border."

Information for this report is provided by AP

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