WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Treasury Department on Thursday added the names of 26 people and 17 companies linked to Myanmar’s military government to its list of accused traffickers of opium, the raw material of heroin, and other drugs.
“The United Wa State Army is the largest and most powerful drug trafficking organization in Southeast Asia and is a major producer and exporter of synthetic drugs,” the Treasury said in a statement.
Many of the those named in the announcement are tied to the military regime and have previously been indicted by U.S. federal courts.
The full list is at www.treas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/bulletin.txt
Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, shares the notorious Golden Triangle region with Laos and Thailand, a mountainous opium-producing area that has seen its leading role in the global heroin trade eclipsed by Afghanistan.
According to Jane’s Information Group, the United Wa State Army, a former insurgent force, “has successfully asserted itself as the largest and wealthiest player in Myanmar’s booming narcotics trade.”
“China has found itself facing a growing menace from Wa-produced heroin, while the UWSA’s aggressive export of methamphetamines has acted as a persistent irritant in relations” between Myanmar and Thailand, Jane’s said.
“Since 2000, the Wa have opened new narcotics export routes into Laos, Cambodia and India’s northeast as well as trafficking small-arms to these regions.”
Jane’s said it was clear Myanmar’s junta “is politically unwilling and militarily ill-prepared to risk any confrontation with the UWSA, a move that could have disastrous repercussions on ceasefire arrangements with a range of other factions.”
Reporting by Patrick Rucker, editing by John O'Callaghan