BURMESE POLITICAL DISSIDENT Aung San Suu Kyi, as we all know, has been released from over 15 years' house arrest.
This event has been widely been viewed as a publicity stunt.
I'm not entirely sure. If they'd really wanted to, Burma's "ruling military junta" could have got rid of her forever. Poisoned her coffee.
But they didn't. They let her out.
Perhaps, like another key Burmese figure, Khun Sa, who ended his days in a luxury flat in Burma's capital Rangoon aka Yangon, having lived in luxury flats in Bangkok (before Thai police got on his case), as well as country estates in Laos, as well as his (adopted) home, Shan State in Burma, Burma's generals plan to retire in style, living out their days in assured opulence.
Khun Sa was born in China's Yunnan province to a Chinese father and Shan mother from the highlands of Burma's Shan State, key area of the infamous Golden Triangle where, before Afghanistan took the narco-crown, most of the world's opium was grown.
At one point, so it's rumoured, Khun Sa had at least ten brands of China White winging, floating and trundling their ways to international narcotics markets. The most infamous were 999 Brand, Lucky Strike (in 700g packets printed with same logo as the cigarettes!) and so-called "Double UOGlobe". This heroin was reputedly up to 99% pure.
Opium was, and still is, also grown by the Wa, another people fighting a resistance movement up in those there highlands. Poppies are still cultivated in Thailand, albeit on a small scale, and more significantly in Laos. Laos produces about as much heroin (so it is claimed ~ and I've looked into world opium/heroin production figures and find them highly spurious. I think they're massively underestimated in some countries) as Pakistan (1-5 tons heroin annually). Opium/heroin is actually sourced from at least 17 countries, including North Korea, Lebanon, Vietnam, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, India, Colombia, Venezuela, Guatemala and Mexico AS WELL as Afghanistan.
Khun Sa died in 2007 and Burma's trade in methamphetamine as well as heroin has since increased. The Burmese government would have us believe that the drug trade is all down to these troublesome border tribes, but expert observers are not convinced. Huge amounts of money are reputedly laundered through Yangon's banks. Anybody willing to pay a 40% "tax" can wash as much cash as they like through a Burmese account and have it officially declared legal. A huge boost to drug dealers and international criminals of all varieties.
My point being that the Nice Lady's release into notoriously unstable Burma may not necessarily be the best thing for her country, or the world.
Look at the former Soviet Union. Countries not used to freedom and democracy don't know how to handle it. That's how figures like Vladimir Putin arise.
As I say, perhaps Burma's generals, like Khun Sa before them, feel they've made their money and the time has come to retire in style? In their own country, in complete safety. If they do retire and indications arise that they are not safe, I'm sure they'd find safe haven in adjoining lands.
Perhaps they intend to go on as normal. Perhaps intend to be puppet-masters, directing future ceremonies from behind the scenes... who knows their real agenda?
In my view, the potential problems come not necessarily from the Burmans, the Burmese-speaking majority, but from Burma's massively unstable border regions. Here (for political, as well as cultural and linguistic reasons) many local tribes claim not to consider themselves "Burmese". They are fighting for what the media call "various degrees of autonomy". They also grow opium poppies.
Vast amounts of methamphetamine are also produced in Burma or Myanmar, as the current "junta" would have us call it. Myanmar is pronounced Mee-YAN-mar. Not MY (rhyming with high, as on China White + methamphetamine) -an-mar.
Opium production dipped so low at one point that even local peasants, many of whom were/are addicted couldn't get it in the early 2000s. Australia, which is primarily supplied by Burmese heroin, went through a 5-year heroin drought from 2001-2006. Purity plummeted while prices soared. Vancouver and Western Canada, which are also fed on China White, also experienced upheaval. But bordering the enormous US drug market, no heroin shortage there was likely to last for long.
In recent years opium production has increased in all major growing regions bar (so it is claimed) the South American Andes. The world market for heroin is bigger than at any point in history. Burma has the experience and expertise to fulfil this demand.
Burmese methamphetamine is usually stamped into pills and exported primarily to Thailand, where it is known as yaba ยาบ้า, the "crazy drug", after the psychosis "repeated administration" provokes. From Thailand it is exported to Cambodia and Vietnam, which also have significant drug problems. But this too could change. Burma is already suspected of being the world's biggest producer of methamphetamine. What would happen if they suddenly started shipping this drug to Europe, which traditionally hasn't been into "meth"? MDMA and similar Ecstasy-type substances and simple (and far weaker) amphetamine sulphate (as well as, of course cocaine and crack) have traditionally been the stimulants of choice here, but Europeans, especially the British, Germans and Dutch, have been notoriously willing to experiment with new uppers en masse, which is why Ecstasy made such inroads into the popular culture. Bored of low-purity coke, the populace may well turn to this far cheaper and longer-lasting stimulant, if it were made more widely available.
I did used to have a crystal ball, but I lost it when I got made homeless. So I'm afraid I've not a clue what the future might hold.
Yes change is afoot in Burma, but it's not necessarily all good.
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