When Wa officials are interviewed about drugs, they like to speak about their efforts and success in eradicating opium production and trade. But whenever you ask them about their reported continued involvement in the drug business, you only run into a blank. Even Wa friends, when asked why drugs seized in Thailand are always referred to the Wa, would grumble, “We are not the only players. Why blame on us for every arrest?” but volunteer little information.
SHAN therefore chose to talk recently to a businessman in eastern Shan State, who has “first hand information” about the drug trade. The following is an excerpt from the interview. - Editor
A. Only some of them are, because the Wa are not the only producers though their products are the best. But most smugglers would say they have brought them from the Wa, because there are few businesspeople on both sides of the border who dare to make trouble for the Wa shipments, due to the proven fact that Wa always take revenge on such people. Another reason is that by saying the consignment belongs to the Wa, few questions are asked and the real owners identity is kept under wraps.
Q. Drug prices have gone down since April especially August when Kokang was attacked. Does it not indicate that they are hot for money to buy weapons?
A. It’s true that the drug prices have dropped. For two reasons:
• One, businessmen operating in Kokang moved all their products to the Thai-Burma border which they wanted to turn into ready cash as soon as possible
• Two, the Wa and allies want to make their products attract more buyers.
But since then prices have been stable. As for buying weapons, I don’t know much about it. But I would think that it would be easier to buy from China than from Thailand.
Q. Who else are involved?
A. The (Burma Army backed) militias with support from Thai businesspeople. They are the ones who bring in precursors like caffeine and pseudo ephedrine. They are also taking advantage of the price drop in Ice, the main precursor, to make more profits. The price of Ice, a few months ago, was B 1 million ($ 30,303) per kilogram. But it is down to B 700,000($ 21,212) and those of low quality to B 550,000 ($ 16,667). So if you make 30,000 pills from 1 kg of Ice and sell them for B 40 each, you can easily make B 1.2 million( $36,364) and get a nice quick profit.
Q. Why are there so many seizures in Thailand these days?
A. There may be several reasons. But one reason I know is the sting operations appear to be working so well. Many crossborder transporters are turning into informers for drug enforcement agencies not only for their own personal security but business security. Thus when you have made a successful trip into Thailand, you get B 2($0.06) per pill. But when you inform the authorities and they catch the shipment, you get 15% out of its value. That is good business.
In fact, that is why some of the transporters I know have even sold out their former bosom friends to the authorities.