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The land of child warriors

Posted By Anthony C. LoBaido On 03/02/2000 @ 1:00 am In Front Page | Comments Disabled

The following report was compiled by WorldNetDaily’s roving
international correspondent Anthony LoBaido while traveling throughout
China, Burma and Thailand during February.

By Anthony C. LoBaido

© 2000, WorldNetDaily.com

 


MUSE, Burma — The border town of Muse provides a stark contrast to
the wealth, lifestyle, law-enforcement discipline and freedoms of its
communist Chinese neighbor town of Ruili (pronounced Ray-Lee). For
several years now, Burmese heroin has flowed into China from Burma, as
does Burmese jade, known as “the green gold.” Conversely, manufactured
Chinese goods, as well as the ingredients to make Ya Baa, or Crazy
Medicine — the amphetamine currently ravaging Thailand

– flow out of Ruili and into Muse.

But while Ruili features Internet cafes, prostitutes, massage
parlors, discos, casinos and karaoke bars, Muse has decayed into a
dusty, shriveled-up reminder of what could have been. The sex, drugs and
prostitution money that flourished in China due to the border trade was
meant to be duplicated in Muse. At least that was the wish of the ruling
Burmese junta.

In pursuit of this dream, hotels and casinos went up all around Muse,
and sex workers were brought in. Even professional gaming instructors
from Macau ventured to the tiny town to lend their hand at installing a
Las Vegas-type money machine in the nation.

However, not long after Muse’s Sodom-like infrastructure was
completed, the Chinese police began cracking down on Chinese men
frequenting Muse’s attractions. Along with this crackdown, the Burmese
dream of replicating Ruili withered and died on the vine.

“Apparently, the hard-line Chinese authorities wanted to make it
crystal clear that the money from such vices had to stay inside of
China,” said Mickey Lin, a Burmese sex worker who patrols the sidewalks
of Ruili.

When WorldNetDaily recently visited Ruili, this writer found
everything from jade-and-gem salesmen, prostitutes and bowling alleys to
Chinese not-so-secret police trying to keep a handle on the influx of
both illicit goods and foreigners into the Chinese border town. There
was also an unlikely collection — or rather, explosion — of bank
branches.

One financial institution was actually named, “I Can’t Believe It’s A
Bank.” There were also sidewalk venereal disease clinics selling
“Pennecillos” cookies for people with herpes, as well as all-night
discos playing Donna Summer and other ’70s hits. Inside, rugged Chinese
men and dolled-up Chinese prostitutes danced the night away.

A closer inspection revealed that while Chinese manufactured goods
continued to pass into Muse, an intensive series of roadblocks and
checkpoints featuring elite Chinese troops had been set up to search for
Burmese heroin.

The rules of the game apparently have changed: Drugs can flow out of
China and into Burma — most all of which is destined for Thailand –
but heroin cannot flow in.

As one Chinese soldier told WorldNetDaily, “Heroin can destroy the
minds of our youth,” an ironic comment from a nation seemingly intent on
destroying the entire nation of Thailand with YaBaa.

According to narcotics suppression officials interviewed by WND,
China is intercepting Burmese heroin and passing it on to Laos and North
Korea for sale to the West, and to Western allies in Southeast Asia and
Australia.

Japan feels the heat

Recent high-level dialogue between Japan and the ruling Burmese
junta have been all but ignored by the Western press. They reflect
growing worries in Tokyo, Asian capitals and Washington about China’s
ever-increasing influence on Burma and its ruling junta.

Experts in the region are troubled that Burma’s intransigent economic
weakness is an inviting target for an expansionist-minded China. Today,
China is the number-one arms supplier to the Burmese junta. China also
is Burma’s leading supplier of large infrastructure finance and
know-how, and its largest trading partner.

So worried is Japan concerning Burma that it dispatched its first
high-level delegation in 15 years recently to meet with top junta
officials. These meetings were aimed at negotiating possible investment
in Burma on the part of top Japanese corporations.

Ryutaro Hashimoto, the former Prime Minister of Japan and now the
senior foreign policy advisor to Japanese leader Keizo Obuchi, was sent
on the aforementioned special assignment. Hashimoto met with Senior
Burmese Gen. Than Shwe in the Philippines last month in an effort to
hammer out a new era in bilateral relations between the two nations.

Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi is concerned that China will gain
influence over Burma.

Toshiro Kudo, a researcher at the Institute of Developing Economies,
a Japanese think tank, told WorldNetDaily that Burma is “strategically
important to Japan. It also has significant resources and Japan doesn’t
want to give up economic interests to China.”

“Japan is worried that, as Burma gets weaker, China might take it as
an opportunity to do something — ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian
Nations) and Japan take this as a real danger.”

Another Western military attache in Rangoon echoed Kudo’s remarks.

“China would take Burma right now if she thought she could get away
with it — if the West would just sit back and let it happen. But one
day, if China needs rice, and Burma, because of ethnic conflict or civil
war can’t deliver it, China might just step in and say, ‘Oh, we’re just
here to prevent a famine and help restore law and order’ — just like
the Russians did in Afghanistan,” said the attache, who requested that
his name be withheld.

“Japan has two natural resource colonies in the world: Peru and
Burma. Remember a few years ago when those Marxist rebels in Peru took
hostages? Did they take Peruvians? No! They took Japanese leaders, heads
of corporations. Why? Because it is Japanese corporations who run Peru!
How many South American countries have a Japanese prime minister, for
God’s sake?”

However, the Nobel Prize-winning leader of the anti-junta National
League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi objects vigorously to investment
by transnational corporations in Burma, saying, “By investing now,
business is supporting the military regime. The real benefits of
investments now go to the military regime and their connections. So why
we object to investments now is not because we are against investments
per se, but because we don’t think this is the right time for
investing.”

Speaking of Japan, Suu Kyi said, “Japan should not think of Burma in
terms of the military regime, but in terms of the people of Burma. If
the Japanese government were to think of the interests of the people of
Burma, then they would be in a greater position to establish true
friendship between the two countries.

“As the richest Asian country and as a democracy, Japan has a duty to
try to promote human rights and democracy in other parts of Asia. We
hope that 2000 will see a blossoming of Japanese interest. In our
struggle for democracy and human rights, we would like greater support
from our fellow Asians.”

Japan enacts its strategy

But how can Japan help foster democracy in Burma while at the same
time keeping China — closely aligned ideologically with the Burmese
junta — at bay? Moreover, how can Japan hope to deal with the
peripheral rulers of Burma — namely her massive and rugged drug
cartels?

Recently, Japan offered high dollars to buy Burma’s entire buckwheat
crop. Grown as part of an opium substitution program in the Shan State
region of Burma, the Japanese offered $300 per metric ton of buckwheat,
although the market price is only $280.

Burmese soldier holding poppy plant. Japan is interested in financing an
opium crop substitution plan for Burma, but the United Wa State Army
controls most of the opium trade and is the largest and richest drug
army on earth, according to the U.S. State Department.

The Shan State is home to the Wa State Army, which according to the
U.S. State Department, is the richest and best-armed drug army in the
entire world.

The Wa State Army is so powerful, it is a de facto government and
nation unto its own. Recently, Wa State leaders told WorldNetDaily they
were relocating over 50,000 hill farmers and their families to new
farming regions out of the Shan State in an effort to “show our
sincerity in stopping opium production.”

The United Wa State Army agreed to a ceasefire with the Burmese junta
in 1989, and since has been the main producer of opium, heroin and
amphetamines in the Golden Triangle region where Burma, Thailand and
Laos join together.

WorldNetDaily recently watched Lahu tribesmen slash opium poppies
with bamboo sticks, while United Wa State Army leaders claimed, “Opium
production in this region is down 38 percent from 1999.”

Yet both Thai and American officials interviewed by WND claim that
the 38 percent decline in opium production is the result of drought, not
UWSA eradication efforts.

“This is a dog and pony show. Yes, drugs are 13 percent of
everything. How do you hide the drugs and launder the drug money? You
have to burn a lot of it, just to show the world that you’re ‘fighting
the good fight,’ said Kelly O’Malley, a Canadian writing a book about
the Wa Army. “This is like asking the fox to guard the chicken coop.”

Dealing with Burma’s huge drug economy

While Japan has sought to buy up some of Burma’s non-drug crops, the
U.N. recently reiterated its offer to the Burmese junta that it would
pay $1 billion to the junta to give up control of the government to the
United Nations.

Thus far, the junta has refused.

“Why should the junta accept a measly $1 billion?” one Western
diplomat based in the capitol of Rangoon told WND. “They can make many
more times that amount from the sale of drugs. This is, after all, the
Golden Triangle, and the drug money which flows in and out of Burma is
incalculable.”

As for where most of that drug money is laundered, the diplomat said,
“Two of the world’s smallest nations, Nauru and Niue, are home to untold
billions in Burmese, South American and Russian-laundered drug money.”

In fact, WND has learned the G-7 nations are now preparing to impose
tough sanctions on the two tiny South Pacific islands. Last year, Nauru,
the smallest republic on the face of the earth, laundered over $70
billion in drug money. Measures to isolate the nations include
de-registering all of their banks and tax-haven operations, effectively
disabling them from conducting transactions with other banks.

U.N., World Bank, IMF meet with Suu Kyi

Recently, the World Bank sent representatives to meet directly with
Aung San Suu Kyi to inquire how, when and to what degree the
International Monetary Fund and World Bank could engage the military
junta.

Suu Kyi told Alvardo De Soto, the recently vacated special U.N. envoy
to Burma, that she wanted the World Bank’s dealings with Burma to be
“transparent.” She had no objections to the World Bank’s developing and
shaping the junta’s civil service, she said, this ostensibly in
preparation for her eventual takeover of the country.

“The handwriting is on the wall. It’s just like another Nelson
Mandela scenario,” said Burmese Gen. Sang Kin in an exclusive
WorldNetDaily interview.

“The IMF and World Bank have chosen Suu Kyi to lead the nation. I
respect her personally. But the Nobel Prize? They gave it to Bishop
Tutu, another Marxist. Is South Africa peaceful since the ANC took over?
No, rather it is caught up in anarchy. Is Burma at peace today? No. We
have many tribes and cultures currently at war. We have to unify them.
Unification is more important than democracy,” he said.

Then the general once again uttered a term that has become familiar
to this writer — from South Africa to Indonesia to Burma: “Polyarchy,”
meaning two foreign-funded-and-controlled, supposedly-competing
political parties. The concept is that no matter who wins, the will of
the United Nations, global elite and Western corporations will be done.

The junta wants to play nice

For its part, the ruling junta has been doing a decent job of
playing the major globalist powers — including China, Japan and the
U.N. — against one another.

At the recent United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, or
UNCTAD, Burmese officials — who are now officially a part of the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations — have asked for development
money and assistance from the U.N. and transnational Western
corporations. In response, U.N. chief Koffi Annan said he hopes to
appoint a new U.N. envoy to Burma to replace the departing De Soto in
the near future. Just exactly what Annan has in mind is not clear to
most Burma observers at this point.

Bottom line: The junta seems to realize it is losing control of the
nation.

From gold and silver to AIDS and drugs

To say the least, daily life in modern Burma is hard. Only Laos and
Cambodia have a shorter life expectancy than Burma’s 58.4 years.
HIV/AIDS is growing, from 350,000 infected in 1995 to 500,000 in 1997,
and over 58,000 infants have been born with AIDS since 1988. Over 1.5
million Burmese citizens have fled the country to work illegally in
Thailand and other nations, while 2,000 political prisoners languish in
Burmese prisons.

Things were not always this bad. Prior to World War II, during its
days under the British Empire, Burma ranked as the world’s leading
exporter of rice, and a major exporter of tungsten, manganese, lead and
silver as well. In 1942, Burma exported 3,500,000 tons of rice, almost 1
million tons more than Thailand (currently the world’s number one
exporter of rice) and French Indochina combined. Burma’s oil exports in
1942 were second only to that of Iran and Iraq in all of Asia, and she
was the largest exporter of manganese ore, silver and lead in the entire
Orient.

In those days, many Burmese families were able to save up to one
ounce of gold per month for rainy days. “Gold for ornament, but for food
when it’s in need” is a popular Burmese proverb.

But today, Burma’s economy is almost exclusively drug-related. The
nation’s natural resources — primarily jade and other gems, oil, gold,
teak wood and rubber — are under-utilized. With an economic growth rate
of 5 percent, per capita GNP is $753. For this nation of 47 million
Buddhists, there is great economic potential. But without the
participation of the greater population, the country will surely
continue to struggle economically and socially.

In order to right the ship, a political settlement is vital to the
ruling junta. As most people know, Burma has been locked in a standoff
with its military junta in total operational control of the nation. The
pro-democracy National League of Democracy, or NDL, led by Suu Kyi have
been marginalized by the government. Yet bringing Suu Kyi on board is
critical both to the ruling junta and to the democracy-seeking West.

Unlocking Suu Kyi’s past

Suu Kyi, internationally lionized as the major figure or even martyr
of Burmese politics, is the daughter of Burmese Gen. Aung San — one of
the “Thirty Comrades” who emerged on the political scene along with the
Japanese during World War II. After the war, her father changed stripes
to join the fight against British colonial rule. Assassinated in 1947,
the beloved general never knew the enormous role his daughter would play
more than half a century later in his nation’s struggle for democracy.

The following year, in 1948, U Nu took control of the government and
set about instituting a socialist government. Then in 1962, another
communist, Ne Win, took over the nation in a military coup. An eccentric
leader, Ne Win flew in helicopters over pagodas and took baths in
dolphin’s blood in an effort to improve his health. He was also obsessed
with the idea that Jesus Christ had traveled to Tibet, where he studied
under various masters in esoteric arts.

On August 8, 1988 — Burmese are very superstitious when it comes to
numerology, and the 8/8/88 date for the revolution is believed to be
highly significant — Ne Win was deposed in a revolution by the
now-ruling junta, led by Gen. Saw Maung.

After establishing the “State Law and Order Restoration Council,” to
its international shame the junta shot many student protesters and
placed Suu Kyi under house arrest. Since 1988, Burmese citizens have
been discouraged from communicating with foreigners and an 11 p.m.
curfew has been imposed in the capital city, off and on, for many years.

Olive branches from the junta

In trying to gain new international sympathy, the junta has enacted
some recent dramatic reforms.

First, the junta has allowed the Red Cross to visit jailed political
dissidents, many of whom are members of Suu Kyi’s National League for
Democracy, which won an 80-percent majority in the 1990 elections. Much
to the dismay of the West and the U.N., the junta had simply ignored the
results of the election.

Another startling reform was the recent debut of The Myanmar Times,
an English-language daily set up by Australian investors. The paper’s
editor, Ross Dunkley, says the paper will operate free of government
control.

In addition, the junta has reopened some of the nation’s major
universities, long a hotbed of student protests which began back in
1988. This is considered a great development for freedom. Since 1988
over 400,000 students who have passed their university exams have waited
to begin college studies.

“The children of the military elites study today in New Zealand,
Australia, Singapore, Thailand, the U.K. and the United States,” said
“Trip,” a Burmese student activist who said he had been jailed by the
junta for leading pro-democracy protests against the regime. “With the
closing of the universities, doctors, lawyers, nurses, engineers and
other professionals are in short supply. For both aspiring professionals
and our nation as a whole, there is no future without advanced
education.”

For the major players in the Burmese scenario — Suu Kyi, the ruling
junta, its drug money and hard-line generals, student protesters, the
various hill tribes and their drug-financed armies, the West, the United
Nations, Japan and China — there is still a long and dangerous endgame
waiting to be played out.


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