Six successful candidates backed by the junta in Burma's controversial elections last weekend were heavily involved in drug trafficking, a crime expert says.
Of the six, Liu Guoxi, 75, had the most senior role: managing drug profits with the knowledge of the military junta, said Bertil Lintner, an expert on transnational crime in south-east Asia.
''He was running heroin for years and years for the Kokang,'' said Mr Lintner, the author of Brothers: The Criminal Underworld of Asia. ''Liu was a sort of accountant - it was his job to look after funds from the drug business.''
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The Kokang are a largely ethnic Chinese group in northern Burma. Last year the Burmese government attacked Kokang leaders, accusing them of drug running. Peng Jiasheng, the Kokang leader at the time, fled across the border into southern China, seeking refugee status.
''Basically, the Burmese government - while [Peng] supported them - didn't have any problem with him running heroin,'' Mr Lintner said. ''But when he refused to join a proposed Border Guard Force to incorporate various ethnic militias, the Burmese government turned against him.
''It was only then that they called him a drug trafficker.''
After last Sunday's elections, the issue of the Border Guard Force - opposed by ethnic minority nationalists - has become a highly charged factor in sparking armed clashes along the Thai border with ethnic Karen forces.
This comes as Thai law enforcement agencies warn of an increasing flow of methamphetamines from ethnic armies in Burma seeking to raise money to buy weapons.
Mr Lintner said yesterday that while opium is no longer grown around Kokang, heroin production continues with poppies acquired elsewhere.
Liu Guoxi was described in the 1990s, in an article in the respected magazine Far Eastern Economic Review, as a drug kingpin. Last year he was made the deputy to Bai Xuoqian, who became Kokang leader after Peng Jiasheng was overthrown.
Security experts on the border said people with drug connections had been elected to some of the 14 regional parliaments, as well as to the national parliament.
The ethnic nationalist Shan Herald website named six people involved in drugs who were elected to the Shan State North legislature, in an area notorious for the drug trade.
November 13, 2010
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