Drugs go up in smoke

2007/06/07    The nation 

SSA leader Colonel Yawd Serk set drugs on fire.

The Shan State Army (SSA), one of the few remaining ethnic armies fighting the military junta of Burma, yesterday held a massive drug bonfire at a military base in Loi Kawwan as part of its campaign to win support from abroad.

In front of about 500 observers from Burma's Shan State and Thailand, SSA leader Colonel Yawd Serk set more than one million methamphetamine tablets, or "ya ba" pills, on fire.

Foreign journalists also observed proceedings at Loi Kawwan base, which is opposite Chiang Rai's Mae Fah Luang district.

The drugs were seized by a 30-strong unit of SSA soldiers who intercepted a shipment coming down the Mekong on Feb 6. A one-hour shoot-out between the traffickers and the SSA unit ended in the death of two soldiers and the sinking of three boats.

The incident took place just north of the "Golden Triangle".

The drugs appeared to have originated from Burma's so-called Special Region 2, an area along the Sino-Burmese border controlled by the United Wa State Army (UWSA), dubbed the world's largest drug trafficking army by the US State Department. The pro-Rangoon UWSA and the SSA, accused by the Burmese junta of being a Thai proxy, are historical enemies and continue to engage in sporadic clashes.

Yawd Serk said the SSA was ready to enter cease-fire talks with the Burmese junta and even cooperate with them on drug suppression.

Wiwatchai Sukhum, The Nation, LOI KAWWAN, BURMA