India has been working on plans of building economic corridors in Northeast India’s neighborhood to boost foreign trade and to give the economy the much needed leap forward. Execution of these plans is crucial to achieve the goals of India's Look-East policy. BUT, there is a GOLDEN TRIANGLE which is a reason of concern.....letzz see what is it and why is it a reason to worry about ?
What is the Golden Triangle ?
- Traditionally, the Golden Triangle is a region between the borders of Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand; a famous region for its opium production.
- According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) latest Southeast Asia Opium Survey 2013, opium cultivation in the Golden Triangle went up by 22 per cent in 2013 propelled by a 13 per cent growth in Myanmar.
- This registered a 26 per cent rise from 2012 in opium cultivation and yield.
- A decade ago, the Golden Triangle supplied half the world’s heroin, but drug barons backed by ethnic militias in Myanmar have turned to trafficking massive quantities of amphetamines and methamphetamines – “which can be produced cheaply in small, hidden laboratories, without the need for acres of exposed land” and these narcotics now dominate the Myanmar part of the Triangle.
- Insurgencies in Myanmar have been funded by narcotics trafficking.
- Cease-fires with the civilian government of Myanmar have left rebel groups free to continue their manufacturing and smuggling without interference.
- Since insurgencies based on purely ethnic issues are on the way out, high profits and access to the lucrative Thai and foreign markets now drive narcotics production and trafficking.
- The Myanmar government can do little to counter drug trafficking in the Golden Triangle as traffickers are well organized Chinese syndicates operating from outside Myanmar.
Peeping into the history of Opium Wars !
- The history of opium in this region is lengthy and very complex. Opium poppies appear to be native to the Golden Triangle region, although opium's history is so long that it is a bit difficult to pin down the origins of the plant. However, opium was not widely used as a recreational drug in Southeast Asia until the infamous Opium Wars of the 1800s.
- In the 1800s, British traders in Southeast Asia had to meet a high demand for Chinese and Asian goods in Europe. People wanted china, silk, and a wide variety of other exports, but the Chinese had little interest in British goods, forcing traders to pay in hard currency, rather than in trade. This arrangement was not satisfactory to many traders, so the British started smuggling opium into India and China, with the goal of getting people addicted to the substance to generate large amounts of cash.(yeh gandagi bhi unhone failaayi !!! )
- In China, the government was not happy with this state of affairs, and it attempted to enforce its drug laws, sparking the Opium Wars. Ultimately, the British were able to force the Chinese to cede territory and open its borders to trade, and many other colonial nations followed suit, much to the frustration of the Chinese government. The Opium Wars led to increased demand for and production of opium in the region, setting the stage for the growth of the Golden Triangle.
- In the 1950s, nations in the Golden Crescent, which includes Afghanistan and Pakistan, started cracking down on opium production. In response, production moved to Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam, a region that came to be known as the “Golden Triangle” in a reference to the massive opium profits which flooded the area. Growth of the opium industry in the region proved explosive, and drug traffickers also started processing the opium to make heroin and other derivatives, with the goal of making drug production even more profitable.
What is the Golden Crescent ?
- The Golden Crescent is the name given to one of Asia's two principal areas of illicit opium production (with the other being the Golden Triangle), located at the crossroads of Central, South, and Western Asia.
- This space overlaps three nations, Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan, whose mountainous peripheries define the crescent, though only Afghanistan and Pakistan produce opium, with Iran being a consumer and trans-shipment route for the smuggled opiates.
- The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) heroin production estimates for the past 10 years show significant changes in the primary source areas.
- Heroin production in Southeast Asia declined dramatically, while heroin production in Southwest Asia expanded.
- In 1991, Afghanistan became the world's primary opium producer, with a yield of 1,782 metric tons (U.S. State Department estimates), surpassing Myanmar, formerly the world leader in opium production. The decrease in heroin production from Myanmar is the result of several years of unfavorable growing conditions and new government policies of forced eradication.
- Afghan heroin production increased during the same time frame, with a notable decrease in 2001 allegedly as a result of the Taliban's fatwa against heroin production.
- Afghanistan now produces over 90% of the world's non-pharmaceutical-grade opium.
- In addition toopiates, Afghanistan is also the world's largest producer of hashish
What actually happens in the Golden Triangle across the Myanmar - Thailand border ?
- Myanmar’s Wa ethnic group is the largest producer of Amphetamine-Type Stimulants (ATS).
- The United Wa State Army (UWSA) is sustained by narcotics money in addition to arms contraband.
- Increases in the use of methamphetamine in Thailand have contributed to regional instability and Thailand’s National Security Council now recognizes narcotics smuggling as a critical threat to its national security.
- Thailand accuses Myanmar of unleashing “narcotic aggression” on Thailand and with the stupendous increase of methamphetamine production within Myanmar, drug trafficking into Thailand from Myanmar is on the rise.
- Ethnic militias like the UWSA and Shan State Army (SSA) control most of the 1800 km Myanmar border with Thailand and corruption within the Thai security forces has abetted a thriving narcotics trade.
- Within Myanmar, the UWSA has emerged as the largest producer of methamphetamine. Mong Yawn, the drug base of the UWSA in the Shan state in Myanmar, enjoys direct access to the Thai province of Chiang Mai, emerging as one of the biggest drug boom towns near the Myanmar-Thailand border.
- Methamphetamine smuggling from Myanmar into Thailand by UWSA amounts to 200 million pills per year.
- Besides tackling border corruption within its ranks, the Thai military has a dangerous task, challenged as it is by the Shan and Wa armies complicit with narcotics crossing the border.
Role of China in this entire DRUG - AFFAIR
- The former military junta in Myanmar had been at war with the ethnic rebel groups of the Waand the Shans interspersed with periodic ceasefires. The UWSA had earlier supported theTatmadaw (Burmese military) but later retreated to the northern part of Shan state. TheTatmadaw also propped up several ethnic militias as a check against the ceasefire rebels. These various ethnic armed groups struck deals amongst themselves to facilitate the profitable narcotic trade.
- China’s Yunnan province has a 1997-km border with Myanmar and narcotics have adversely affected many Chinese border villages. Previously heroin use made Yunnan suffer the highest HIV rate of any Chinese province or autonomous region. Ruili, the border town in Yunnan, suffers from two-thirds of drug users infected with HIV due to sharing contaminated injections. This situation is further aggravated by the presence of guns and a heightened risk of border related violence.
- In 2000, taking advantage of the ongoing conflicts in Shan state in Myanmar, China persuaded the ethnic Wa to relocate with their drug production units from the Myanmar-China border to the Myanmar-Thailand border (See Figure ). The UWSA, aided by the Tatmadaw, had wrested the new acquired territory from the control of the SSA of Khun Sa, the opium warlord and ‘King’ of the Golden Triangle. This move reduced drug trafficking into China and at the same time dumped the problem on Thailand. China armed the Wa with weapons and supplied money. In return the Wa would control the entrance and exit regions of Shan state and ‘help’ the Chinese in constructing roads through the territory giving China the much desired access to the Myanmar coast. The Tatmadaw also formed an alliance with the UWSA to first defeat the Shans and second to serve as proxies in fighting the Thai army at the border.
India a Partner in crime ?
India has played an unhappy part in the drug trade for decades. Squeezed between the notorious Golden Triangle and Golden Crescent, India is an important conduit for drugs from Asia to Europe, Africa and the Americas.
LIKELY CONSEQUENCE on NORTH- EAST INDIA with India's Look East Policy
Illicit drug trade along the Golden Triangle has serious implications for Northeast India.
- First, opening up to Southeast Asia carries a double edged sword. On one hand, it promises development and investments. On the other hand, it invites the danger of rapid flow of illicit drugs and arms.
- Second, without effective drug control mechanisms that guarantee that illicit trade is kept to the minimum, the adverse consequences of illicit drugs on Northeast society could leave long term negative effects.
- Third, India should establish institutional mechanisms with China, Myanmar and Thailand to counter-illicit trafficking.
- Finally, there must be a long term Indian strategy to limit drugs trafficking, address the social impact of drug addiction, spread the word about the ill effects of drug abuse in schools, and established efficient rehabilitation centres in the HIV and drug zones in Northeast India. There is perhaps no other way to address the life threatening effects of drug addiction and HIV, currently destroying youths in Northeast India especially Manipur.