YANGON, 23 April - A ceremony to announce total eradication of narcotic drugs in Mongla region, Shan State (East) Special Region 4, and open the Museum on Narcotic Drugs to mark the total eradication was held in front of the new museum in Mongla Township at 9 am yesterday.
Chairman Work Committee for Development of Border Areas and National Races Secretary-1 of the State Law and Order Restoration Council Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt addressed the ceremony and formally opened the museum.
Also present were Minister for Progress of Border Areas and National Races and Development Affairs Lt-Gen Maung Thint, Minister for Home Affairs Lt-Gen Mya Thin, Minister for Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Maj-Gen Soe Myint, Minister for Transport Lt-Gen Thein Win, Minister for Information Maj-Gen Aye Kyaw, Chairman of Shan State (East) Law and Order Restoration Council Maj-Gen Thein Sein, Deputy Minister for Health Col Than Zin, Deputy Minister for Education Dr Than Nyunt, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs U Nyunt Swe, Chief of Staff (Air) Brig-Gen Kyaw Than, Director-General of Office of the State Law and Order Restoration Council Lt-Col Pe Nyein, heads of department, ambassadors of Myanmar, representatives of UN agencies, diplomats and military attaches, the governor of Shipxanbana, the People's Republic of China, local and foreign journalists, TV crew, national races leaders and representatives of special regions, national races leader U Sai Lin and members of Shan State (East) Special Region, peasants of Nampan, Mongla and Hsilu regions and local residents.
At the outset, I wish to extend my warm greetings and best wishes on the occasion of the auspicious Myanmar New Year to the Ministers, Departmental Heads, Representatives from UN Agencies, Diplomats and Military Attaches, specially invited guests from neighbouring countries, domestic and foreign media persons, leaders of various groups of the national races and local brethren living in the region, present here today to attend the ceremony making the total eradication of narcotic drugs in Mongla region in Eastern Shan State and the opening of the Museum on narcotic drugs held to commemorate this significant event.
Today we take much pleasure and pride in declaring that Mongla region in Eastern Shan State has been totally eradicated of narcotic drugs. It is an auspicious day symbolizing pride and honour for the State. Today's ceremony clearly reflects the successful cooperation between the Government and the local inhabitants. At the same time, it manifests that the Government and the people of Myanmar are fighting the scourge of narcotic drugs not with empty words but in practical terms with full of zeal and enthusiasm.
The cultivation of poppy and production and use of opium were introduced when Myanmar fell under the colonialists. The colonialists sanctioned the local people to legally cultivate poppy in some regions of Shan and Kachin States.
They also permitted legal trading of opium in order to collect revenue. Opium dens were permitted to open upon payment of taxes and opium consumers were legally allowed under registration to use opium.
The poppy cultivated in the east of Thanlwin river in the Shan State was transported and sold by the colonial government. Over 200 opium dens were opened throughout the country and opium was sold to registered smokers and users.
The cultivation of poppy production and sale of opium were legally carried out by the colonial government not only for revenue and economic gains, but also with a view to undermine the health, social and moral values of the Myanmar people. In other words, a program pernicious to the inherent capabilities of the entire populace of Myanmar was laid down.
Myanmar people under successive kings had fine traditions of civilization and culture. During the reign of Myanmar kings, there had been no practice of cultivating poppy. From historical evidence, it is known that opium came into use around 4000 B.C. in the Mediterranean region of Central Europe as herbal medicine and that it was introduced in Asia in the 16th Century when sea transportation developed and westerners established commercial links with "Asia through sea routes.
Therefore, we could concretely say that "Opium" is not a substance and a word of Myanmar origin, rather it is a substance and a word imported by the colonialists through their military and economic expansion.
As you are aware, Myanmar people, in accordance with religious teachings, social values and cultural traditions completely refrain from taking the five intoxicants of opium, marijuana, intoxicating preparations made from palm sugar;.glutinous rice and alcohol. Myanmar kings of ancient times, prohibited the five intoxicants and effectively suppressed them by meting out severe punishment including the death penalty to offenders.
However, as I had mentioned earlier, under the colonialists, poppy was allowed to be grown and permitted to be produced, sold and used, thus laying down the way to seriously damage the Myanmar people's inherent capabilities.
After Myanmar's independence, although measures to eradicate the cultivation of poppy and use of opium through enactment of laws, issuance of regulations, order and instructions and international cooperation were carried out, they were largely ineffective and unsuccessful. The main reason for the failure is due to the instigation caused by external factors. Conditions were created by these elements for the armed groups opposed to the State to be involved with the production and drug trafficking of opium.
Since 1968 the underground Burma Communist Party laid down the plan to dominate the Shweli Valley and started its entry into the northeastern part of the country. They gradually expanded territory into the Kokang and Wa regions and to the region east of Kyaingtone. From 1970 onwards, the mainstay of the economy of the BCP (Burmese Communist Party) was the production, trafficking and sale of narcotic drugs. One could see from this background that the stability and tranquillity of the State was affected by the linkage of the production, trafficking and sale of narcotic drugs to the purchase of illegal arms by the armed groups who had received the encouragement and instructions of the clandestine organizations of some countries.
Upon the assumption of State responsibilities, the State Law and Order Restoration Council while striving for the stability of the State, community peace and tranquillity and the rule of law and order, has laid special emphasis for the achievement of national reconsolidation. The State Law and Order Restoration Council has, with all sincerity and goodwill towards the armed groups belonging to the national races, worked for national reconsolidation.
These armed groups upon clearly appreciating the sincerity and goodwill extended by the State and upon realizing that their regions, after more than 40 years of losing contact with Myanmar proper, had lagged behind in development, exchanged arms for peace so that they could participate in the development efforts of their own national races.
The first such armed group to exchange arms for peace was the Kokang group which had left the BCP's sphere of administration. As community peace and tranquillity prevails in the region and with the all round development of the region, the rays of hope for the eradication of poppy cultivation have become brighter.
Likewise, the Wa's the Shans, the Kachins, the Palaungs, the Kayahs, the Pa-o's, the Mons, all these national brethren have one by one exchanged arms for peace. The latest group to come into the legal fold being the Burma Communist Party, Rakhine State led by U Saw Tun Oo. Together with this group the total number of armed groups returning to the legal fold now stands at 17.
The successive Governments of the Union of Myanmar have never encouraged the production and sale of narcotic drugs during any period. Moreover, the Myanmar Tatmadaw has consistently opposed and fought against the production and sale of narcotic drugs through military operations as part of its combat against the scourge of narcotic drugs.
After assuming the State responsibilities, the State Law and Order Restoration Council, while working for the achievement of national reconsolidation for the perpetuation of the Union, has transformed its tactics to that of cooperation with the local inhabitants in combating the scourge of narcotic drugs.
As such, with the prevalence of peace and tranquillity, the regions of the national brethren have been designated as special zones where programs to uplift the living standards of the local inhabitants are undertaken through the border areas and regional development activities. At the same time, measures to eradicate production of narcotic drugs were also carried out.
In order to undertake the border areas development activities, the Central Committee for the Development of the Border Areas and National Races together with the Working Committee and Regional Committees have been established. Moreover, the Ministry of Progress of Border Areas & National Races and Development Affairs was also formed. This Ministry has effectively worked for the development of the border areas.
As for the Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control, it has systematically laid down the following national strategies for the control of narcotic drugs:
With these strategies in hand, the Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control is carrying out the eradication of narcotic drugs together with development activities of the border areas.
At present, a three year plan commencing May 1995 has been drawn up for the Special Zone (2) in northern Shan State with a view to implement Opium Free Zones in the designated areas of Wa region, namely - Pau Kham special township, Main Pauk region of Nam Tit special township, Ho Taun region, Mainmaw region and Main Yun region. Kachin State in 1991 was designate as Opium Free State and in the special zones (1) and (2) of Kachin State the eradication of cultivation of poppy and hashish has commenced.
Similarly, in Mongla, the special zone (4) of Eastern Shan State, starting from 1991 a plan to eradicate poppy cultivation within 6 years was initiated. The plan was implemented in three segments - the first one in Nam Pan area, the second in Maing Ma/Mongla area and the third in Silu area. Today it could be declared with pride that all these three areas are Opium Free Zones.
Towards achieving this end, the Government and the local inhabitants cooperated hand-in-hand in regional development activities and in improving the educational, health, social and economic standards of the local inhabitants.
In particular, the Government has built new hospitals, dispensaries and schools and also constructed irrigation canals, dams, hydroelectric stations, and developed communications infrastructure such as telegram services and telephones and TV relay stations.
In tandem with the above-mentioned infrastructure development the Government has provided villages with water, substitute crops, agricultural farms for developing livestock breeding, animal husbandry and veterinary services and agricultural mechanization stations, all with a view to uplift the living standards and economic conditions of the local inhabitants.
Furthermore, the three and half years plan for Mongla region's development was implemented with the cooperation of Myanmar, China and UNDCP. Under this plan, roads, medical dispensaries, primary schools were built and potable water and substitute crops were made available to the local people.
One may also observe the infrastructure development activities undertaken under the leadership provided by the leaders of the national races and their efforts - namely in the construction of roads, irrigation networks, dams, new towns; cultivation and export of substitute crops across the border and modernization and development of urban areas.
Mongla used to be a small town no larger than a big village before peace and tranquillity prevailed. Today, it is a bustling border town with modern hotels, restaurants, religious edifices, modern buildings and round the clock electricity supply.
With the daily arrival of between 2000 to 3000 tourists, from Talaw, a town on the other side of the border, Mongla now becomes a town which receives 300,000 to 500,000 tourists annually.
The leaders of Mongla and its national races are exemplary to the rest of the world as they prove that they, after abandoning the production and trading of narcotic drugs which is not only illegal but also a source of great harm for suffering to the entire mankind, could successfully develop their region through lawful economic activities.
It is a well-known fact that, in Myanmar, the Government and the whole populace residing in the border areas have wholeheartedly committed themselves to eradicate the narcotic drugs problem. However, some western countries, who turn blind eyes to our successful efforts in this regard are still unfairly accusing Myanmar by disseminating untrue reports and exaggerated news.
With regard to the opium production the International Narcotics Strategy Report for 1996 issued by the State Department of the United States reported that Myanmar is the World's largest producer of opium and heroin; 84% of the opium production in Southeast Asia is produced in Myanmar; and legal production of opium is commonly found in Kokang and Wa regions in Shan State. While poppy plantation recorded 6% higher than 1995, opium production registered at 9% increase for 1996. In 1996 the total area of poppy cultivation reached 163,000 hectares and it was expected that a total of 2560 tons of opium would be produced in that year, the Report alleged.
Besides, judging from the scope and dimension of the cooperation of the countries where the opium is mainly produced and transit countries in combating against trafficking and selling of narcotic drugs, the Unite States Government issues CERTIFICATION to some countries. For 1996-97, CERTIFICATION papers were accorded to Myanmar's neighbours namely Thailand, the People's Republic of China, India, Laos and Vietnam. But Myanmar was accorded with DECERTIFICATION on the ground that Myanmar did not cooperate to this effect.
In addition to these official allegations, the United States Government went on with further accusations station that Myanmar is not serious enough in taking measures to combat the narcotic drugs. Despite some major achievements in combating narcotic drugs in 1996, such as destruction of 11 clandestine drug refineries in Eastern and Northern Shan State, seizure of heroin, opium and chemicals (precursors), the United States downgraded that these successes are very negligible in comparison with actual amount of narcotic drugs production.
Indeed, it can be seen clearly for those who are able to judge rightly the fact that the United States is turning blind eyes on Myanmar anti-drugs efforts and dit is merely allegations based on unfounded reports.
In order to collect the basic data on opium cultivation in Myanmar, the responsible officials of the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) have visited Myanmar in 1993, 1995 and 1997. During their visits, arrangements were made so as to enable them to freely conduct their survey without any restrictions.
Besides, Myanmar is still engaged in cooperative activities with the USDEA by assisting in legal affairs and passing intelligence on drugs.
In addition to its commitment in anti-narcotics measures of the United Nations and international Organizations and involvement in the regional cooperative efforts, Myanmar has also been doubling its coordination with her neighbours.
Since 1963, Myanmar is a party to the 1961 United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. Myanmar, today, is not only carrying out anti-drugs measures in accordance with the decisions of the Seventeenth Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly held in New York in 1990, but also closely working with her neighbours and other countries in the region.
In June 1991, Myanmar became a state party to the 1988 United Nations Convention Against Illicit Trafficking in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. Drawn in accord with this Convention, Laws and Regulations on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances were enacted in 1993.
Memorandum of Understanding to Control Illicit Trafficking and Abuse of Narcotic Drugs was signed in 1995 between UNDCP and six countries in the region. Again in 1996, the Leaders of the six signatory countries to the MOU, UNDP and UNDCP also signed the two documents; namely Agreement on Precursor Control in East Asia and Agreement on Reducing Illicit Drug Use in the Highlands of East Asia.
In the field of anti-narcotic measures, the Union of Myanmar has signed bilateral as well as multilateral agreements with neighbouring countries with whom she shares common borders to eradicate the narcotic drug problem. Furthermore, Myanmar together with neighbouring countries and the United Nations Drug Control Programme signed and agreement to cooperate together to eliminate the narcotic drug problem. Myanmar is now actively participating under this programme.
The Union of Myanmar on her part has actively participated in the field of anti-narcotic measures to eradicate the narcotic drug problem on a global as well as bilateral basis. Myanmar on her own has introduced a self reliant programme for development of national races in the border areas. This programme emphasizes the development of the national brethren living in the border areas and now has gained momentum.
International narcotic problem is an extensive problem which the global community faces and is threatening the livelihood of the international community. International narcotic drug problem affects countries of the world and needs harmonized efforts by all concerned to find a solution.
Instead of blaming one another, we must find an answer based on humanitarian considerations between countries for the elimination of narcotic drug problem which the whole world is now facing.
Producer countries, transit countries as well as user countries must treat the narcotic drug problem as their national problem and must cooperate positively to effectively eradicate the said problem.
Myanmar on her part sees the eradication of the scourge of narcotic drugs as a national problem and will continue her efforts to eradicate this problem with or without help from others.
As the Union of Myanmar is seriously taking the task of eradicating the narcotic drug problem, the countries which are facing the problem of drug abusers should also seriously find a solution to the primary cause of this social evil.
Only when this is accomplished, the menace which is threatening the international community will disappear from the face of the earth.
On her part, Myanmar has suppressed the production and trafficking of narcotic drugs.
By working together with leaders of the national races we have introduced a programme top educate people who produce narcotic drugs to change their attitudes, to uplift their living standards and to earn incomes from cash crops.
The leaders of the Mongla region and the local inhabitants stand as testament to the fact that is the method of cooperating together is a practical as well a favourable one in eradicating the narcotic drug problem in this region.
In this connection, I would like to point out that today's ceremony which commemorated the opening of the Museum on the eradication of narcotic drugs in the Mongla region will place on record the process of producing narcotic drugs, the abhorrent images of narcotic drug users and the concerted efforts taken together by the Government and the local inhabitants.
I would like to congratulate the leaders of the national races of the Mongla region and their inhabitants in their successful efforts which they have undertaken as a national duty to eradicate the narcotic drugs in their region.
I also would like to wish for the continued progress and the prosperity of the Mongla region, for the people of the Mongla region to enjoy forever the stability and tranquillity which prevails in the region.
May the resounding echoes of success emanating from the Mongla region's eradication of narcotic drugs benefit the entire populace of the world.
By this note, I would like to urge the world community to join hands in their efforts to combat the scourge of narcotic drugs.