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Drug woes in Burma may spur on peace

Burma is one of the world's biggest producers of opium, which is used to make heroin. (Photo: Reuters)

Burma has promised to speed up peace efforts with ethnic minority groups in order to better tackle drug trafficking across its borders.

Burma’s minister of Home Affairs, Lieutenant-General Kyaw Swe, made the promise during a meeting with Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Minister Prajin Juntong Monday in Burma’s capital Naypyidaw.

The long-term success of drug crackdowns depends on the peace talks, Kyaw Swe said.

It is widely known that some armed ethnic groups in Burma control areas where drug factories are situated.

Burma and Thailand have agreed to strengthen joint efforts in tackling drug trafficking under the Safe Mekong Joint Operation pact, a multi-national drive launched in 2013 to stamp out drugs along the Mekong River.

China and five Association of Southeast Asian Nations members — Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam — signed the pact.

One of its goals is to “seal off” the Golden Triangle, the notorious drug-producing area where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Burma meet.

It covers a mountainous area of about 950,000 square kilometres.

Under the plan, each country has agreed to work together to prevent drugs being transported out of the Golden Triangle and block drug precursors being trafficked into this notorious drug-producing region.

Prajin welcomed Burma’s pledge.

“I would like to thank the Myanmar government for its closer cooperation in trying to solve drug problems,” Prajin said.

The operation in the Golden Triangle requires Burma’s help, he stressed.

Prajin said he also asked his Burmese counterpart to work more closely with Thai authorities in treating drug addicts and efforts to prevent them from returning to narcotics. He said drug addicts are being treated as patients, not criminals.

This story was originally published by the Bangkok Post here.