Burma — another Darfur?
The country tumbles into chaos while drug traffickers ship their wares
to Hawaii, where crystal meth is highly profitable
July 29, 2007
By Robert Weiner and John Larmett
Special to the Star-Bulletin
IN A LITTLE-NOTICED State Department report in March, Burma was
re-branded from the "Golden Triangle" to the "Ice Triangle." A nation
of 42 million in Southeast Asia, Burma remains the second-largest
opium poppy grower in the world after Afghanistan, but Burma and China
are now "the world’s top producers" of amphetamines, according to the
U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime. Burma produces more than a billion
pills a year of methamphetamine alone — aimed not just at neighbors
Thailand, China, India and Cambodia, but the United States — largely
in and through Hawaii and California.
Drug-trafficking organizations based in Asia are in Hawaii’s illegal
drug market because the price of a pound of "ice" — crystal
methamphetamine — retails for twice what it does on the
U.S. mainland. According to the law enforcement officials, a pound of
crystal meth retails in the western United States for $12,000 to
$16,000. The same pound will fetch as much as $30,000 in Hawaii.
The Star-Bulletin, as far back as 2003, has run feature articles on
the "Ice Storm" sweeping the Hawaiian Islands. Hawaii started getting
attached to ice in the 1980s, before the rest of the country, when the
drug started streaming in from Asia. Hawaii has earned the title of
"Ice Capital" of the nation.
The Drug Enforcement Administration recently confirmed (Drugs and Drug
Abuse State Factsheet, updated June 2007) that "Crystal
methamphetamine (ice) is the drug of choice in Hawaii." Last year more
methamphetamine was seized in Hawaii than any other drug. Federal drug
seizures in Hawaii in 2006 were: cocaine: 18.2 kgs., heroin: 0.3 kgs.,
marijuana: 13.1 kgs., hashish: 1.2 kgs and methamphetamine: 50.5
kgs. The DEA reported that in Hawaii, the majority of methamphetamine
is converted into ice.
THE HUMAN toll is serious because, as DEA reported, ice "lands in
local night clubs, street corners, hotel sites, public areas, raves
and private residences. The widespread use of crystal methamphetamine
in Hawaii has had a devastating impact on Hawaii’s economy and family
structure. … The drug’s presence has increased street violence and
property crimes." According to the Hawaii state Department of Health,
more than 3,600 individuals were admitted to treatment centers seeking
help for methamphetamine in 2005; and only a small fraction of
individuals come forward to seek treatment.
Burma, the center of the world’s "Ice Triangle," has one of the most
repressive governments in the world. This year, Burma was listed among
the world’s most failed states by the magazine Foreign Policy, right
behind Sudan in human rights violations. In 1990, the ruling military
junta arrested Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the overwhelming
parliamentary party winner, the National League for Democracy, with 82
percent of the seats. Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and her
colleagues have been in prison or under house arrestsince that
Yet the foreign policy of this and previous administrations toward
Burma is based on silence and complacency. From trade to troops to
diplomacy, we have made it a point to do absolutely nothing other than
occasional White House "white papers" and weak sanctions.
The Burmese people endure forced labor for army units, rape of women
and girls, and military conscription of boys, now an estimated
70,000-plus. The authoritarian military government, the State Peace
and Development Council, claims that its soldiers are volunteers and
that the minimum requirement age is 18. However, according to Human
Rights Watch, "the vast majority of new recruits" are "forcibly
conscripted," with 35 percent to 45 percent ages 11-14.
TWO DECADES of brutal treatment by the Burmese military in Eastern
Burma have caused more than 500,000 internally displaced and homeless
civilians, whose villages have been destroyed; there are thousands
more in areas where monitoring is impossible. An estimated 1.5 million
Burmese are illegal escapees in neighboring Thailand, on top of the
150,000 in official camps. The SPDC blocks humanitarian aid to areas
of ongoing conflict.
In just a two-year period in Darfur, 400,000 were killed and two
million rendered homeless by violence that wiped out entire
villages. The international community has awakened and demanded that
the atrocities in Darfur stop. The U.S. Congress has used the
strongest language possible to condemn the bloodshed in Darfur,
describing it as genocide and holding the Sudanese government
responsible. The presidential candidates are discussing no-fly zones
and military action, both unilateral and international.
President Bush and Congress must speak and act against human rights
violations and bloodletting in Burma before it becomes another
Darfur. Burma’s drugs exacerbate the situation even further — it is
clearly in U.S. national security interest to take action.
If the community of nations fails to act, Asia’s and America’s youth
will pay the ultimate price.
Robert Weiner, president of a Washington think tank, is former
spokesman for the White House Office of National Drug Policy. John
Larmett, senior policy analyst at Robert Weiner Associates, is a
former foreign affairs assistantto Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) and
former Sen. Gaylord Nelson (D-Wisc.).
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From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress