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Chinese in 'Jiiailand, wliu consider a pipe of opium "no niure aiiiful lhan u [ircdinner Martini," still operate dope dcna

.

They Smuggle Dope by the Ton
One of coninuiinsm's most
VICIOUS

attacks on tlie froc world strikes

through corruption-riddled Thailand, where Red China unloads vast quantities of opium every year.
By Darrell Hirrigan
One morning last summer, a squad of Thai polier rruptcd from the junylcs thai cdgt- thLM;KS;IÍ River, which divides 7'hailünd Irom Burma, and seized twenty (uns of contraband opium They had braved swarms of mosquitocî throuRliout thr nicht to observe an army of smufiKlcrs rafiinn the illicit cargo across thr narrow river. Bui for reasuiis never fully explained, the police had nul braved the smugglers themselves When at last they emerged from the undi-rljrush. tlu-y found beside the abandoned rafts with their piles of opium only one man, the mysterious informer whose tip-oit had broughl ihem to witness ihc greatest drugrunning operation ever recorded in Tli.iiland Now, twenty tons of opium is a wliulr Nirvana of pipe dreams. Once processed, it is enouiih to supply Thailand's estimated 101,000 opiiiiii addici> with full pipes for over a year. In hard Ameriean (Cuntinucd on I'agc I.«;)

Gen. Phau .Sriyanond, Thai police boss, v/aa linked to opium scandal.

Cash crop: The poppy ficldx of China .ire .ire une une of of the the wnrld5 wnrld'5 prinprincipal cipal suuiTcit suuiTcit uf uf the the drug. drug.

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THF.

S A T U H D A Y

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P O S T

Tiiey Smuggle Dope by the Ton
{Continued from Page 42) currency it is worth 58,000,000. To an informer and the police and other officiais involved in its seizure, it means sharing a reward of S 1,200.000. To the smugglers, safe across the river, this particular twenty tons meant a large sum in gold bars. Tu the world at large, it meant that Red China, from which the opiuni is said tu have come, was pressing ils campaign to corrupt the democracies. It is no wonder, then, that the revelations provoked by the seizure disturbed a number of people around the world, and changed the face of the government here in Thailand. The scene on the Maesai River was staged by Gen. Phao Sriyanond, a solid, red-faced man with a plump and smiling mien and intense, unsmiling eyes. At the time he was director general of police, deputy minister of finance, deputy minister of the interior and, as one of Prime Minister P. Pibulsonggram's trusted lieutenants, the countr>'s "strong man." "Don't ask me!" Pibul said with a shrug at one point "1 don't know anything about Ihe question." Now, Prime Minister Pibulsonggram is not given to public displays of anger or irritation, He is a mild-mannered man, dapper in his Western suits and four-inhand ties, and usually urbane and smiling. But he was just back from a goodwill tour of the United States and Europe, and the efi'ect of the tour seemed threatened by the bad publicity the opium trade was giving his country. In addition, his aide had not thought fit to impan to him the intimate details of the opium transaction. "I don't know any more about it than you do " the prime minis'er irr-tably told a reporter who persisted in asking him about the reward. "I don't like it either. I want to know about this as much as you do. Even my defense plans are not secret. But ever>thing about opium is secret— very secret." And he turned with heavy sarcasm toward his cabinet members sitting behind him. "May I myself know who got the rewards?" he asked. One reason for the prime minister's irritation wus a new criticism of Thailand's approach to the opium traffic, by the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs, Harry- J. Anslinger, the United States Narcotics Commissioner, had declared that "more illicit opium moves to and around Chiengrai (in Northern Thailand) than any other place in the world." Most of this, he charged, came from Red China's province of Yunnan, a few hundred miles north of the Thai border. Its export through illicit channels, Mr. Anslinger charged, was part of a communist policy to corrupt the people of the free world, and, with the foreign exchange thus obtained, support the communist underground in Southeast Asia, The commission report issued last May left little doubt of its dissatisfaction with Thailand's role in the trade. The commission commended Burma for the "persistent efforts it has made and is still making in the face of many obstacles to suppress the flow of opium from north (China) to south (Thailand)." But. said the commission, "it feels bound to record its concern at the present situation in Thailand."

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I t was to General Phao that the mysterious informer brought his valuable informiiiion. Il w;is General Phao who ordered hisdeputy to seize the contra band and bring it safely to Bangkok. An J il was General Phan, according to an authority too important to ignore, who—as director general of police—signed the request for the reward; and then rushed across tovsn to the Ministry of Finance to grant the request—as deputy minister— when It passed his desk. When a storm of criticism broke. Phao was shipped off to Japan and the United States on a vague mission while the government relieved him uf his jüb in the Finance Ministry, curtailed his power elsewhere, and attempted to clean up the mess. The great extent of the mess was revealed at thi: prime minister's weekly press conference, where newsmen tried to get answers to outstanding questions on the opium seizure. In the absence of General Phao, the brunt of the attack »as taken by the finance minister, Phra Bnriphan, a balding man with a long, sad face. His replies to questions seemed to indicate that he was not fully informed of the incident; yet ihe seized opium had b«:en delivered tohise.\cisedepanment.aniJhis ministry had paid out the huge reward. It was the reward that most piqued Ihe interest of the prcs6. Rewards ure based It had become apparent ihat Thailand's on the quality of the opium sci/cd, thus enormous opium traffic—estimated at benecessitatingsomcdelay inpaymentwliilc tween 300 and 400 tons a year—was more the excise dcpiirimeni grades the drug. In than a domestic issue. It was a question of this case, contrar>' to custom, the reward growing importance to the world at targe. had been paid in what the press consid- With the entrance of the Chinese commui:red unseemly haste. General Phao had nists into the traffic, it seemed to involve been quoted as saying that quick pay- much more than, as Prime Minister Pibul ment was necessao' because the inform- suiel, "the honor of my country." Yuner's life was in danger and an ininiediate nanese opium and its derivatives have tour of foreign lands was required. Later, been seized in Hong Kong, Macau. Singathis was denied. The finance minister ap- pore, Man>eilles. Tokyo—and San Franp.irently did noi see the reward checks, cisco. St. LOUIS and New York. The fact for he sjid be did not know the identity of that much of it passes through Bangkok the informer. And three weeks after this embarrasses the Thai people, but it is an nebulous gentleman had presumably embarrassment of long standing. Opium p<K'keted his share of the reward, the smuggling has been a part of the Thai finance minister had to admit that the ex- economic and political scheme for many cise department was still weighing and years. grading the opium—a process, as we have To begin with, Thailand has a frontier said, that affects the size of the reward to in the north and east of mountain wilderbe paid. nes.s through which a thousand dim traits "You are weighing the opium and you can lead smugglers to Thailand and forhave already paid ihe reward?" a re- eign gold. Hidden among these muunporter asked incredulously. Uiinsurchill tribes who have for centuries The harassed minister llushed. "That grown opium for export to the lowlandis," he stammered—"well—uh—we stick ers, and behind them arc the greater poppy fields of China's province of Yunto our first report." The prime minister sat brooding nan. The entire Thai army and police through the cross-examination the press force combined could not close this ungave his finance minister, and offered no charted wilderness against smugglers. help when Phra Boriphan'seyes turned to The trade, both legal and illegal, was him for support. pretty much confined in the beginning to

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y liée and other ofücials—and make a safe and comfortable profit on the transaction. The press noticed that when large seizure.^ of opium were made the police rarely captured any of the smugglers. Bctwxcn February and June of 1950 the police seized almost sixteen tuns of opium, worth at that time about S3.000.000—almtxft as much as the government monopoly's legal income from sales for that entire year. The police now claim that more thiin S8,000.000 worth of illicit opium is being .seized annually. Officials estimate this represents about 20 per cent of the amount that slips through their linger. Even if Thailand is seizing as much as claimed, the traffic is worth at least S69.000.000 a year to smugglers and agents who don't get caught. If United Nations estimates are correct, the take is much greater.

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W i t h profits so Tat, the traffic was bound to interest some of the smartest members of the Thai and Chinese communities. As IS usual with trade in Thailand. Ihc opium traffic came under the control of the Chinese, with une man ora few mtn running the organization. The actual imparting seems tii have come under the control of the national police, whose duties along Thailand's demilitarized northern frontiers gave them an advantage over their rivals in the army. Thailand, it should be e\pljini:d, hus been ruled by coup J'iiat for over twenty yeapi. The last successful coup was staged in 1947 by young officer?; of tin; army and the pnlice. Field Marshal I'lbulsonggram was returned lo the po,st of prime minister, which he had lost at the end of the w jr. but the coup leaders kept for themThose were the years when Ihe United seUcs much of the power and the riches Nations first took public exception to the their daring had won. When the spoils illicit traffic through Thailand to other were divided, a conflict developed over countries in the Far East. Europe and who was to control the opium traflic. America. The government expressed reThe Thai press called it the "Opium gret and announced the estublistiment of War" iind its protagonists tliL- "yellow an Opium Suppression Committee, aimed uniforms" and ihc "green uniTorms." toward "complete suppression of the nar- The engagements were suhtcrranean for cotics traffic in Thailand by the end of the most part, but occasionally there was nc\t year, in compliance with a pledge a clash (hat could not he kept secret. One made lo the United Nations." An im- oflhi.-se occurred in 1950 at Lampang. the portant part of the program was an in- railroad center Just south of Chicngrai. crease of the reward for the seizure of The pulicc in their yellow uniforms hailed cooked opium from twenty-live satangs an army convoy caroing several tons of per gram—about one and a quarter opium from the border to a railroad cents—lo one baht—about live tents. The rendezvous at Lamp.ing. The army troops wise money quiekty discovered that a not only ru-fuscd to surrender their cargo tradcrcould buy opium from the norlhern but xl up machine guns and defied the suppliers at one fifth of a baht per gram, poliLe to take it. The police brought out inform the police of the date of its arrivai their heaviest guns and took shelter facing at the border, collect S5 per cent of the their rivals. No shot,s were (ired, but for reward—the remainder going to the po- forty-eight hours Lampang nervously

the Chinese community in Thailand. There arc about 3.000.000 Chinese here now, most of them Trom southern provincts or China where a pipe of opiom is thought to be no more sinful than a predinncr Martini. The Thais, who consider the habit degrading, hospitably permitted Oiincw residents to operate divans and destroy themsehes if ihey wished. As for the Thais, they would merely extract a profit from (he habil by licensing divans and monopolizing the sale of opium. But government control created a profitable traffic in illicit opium. Venal members of the ill-paid police force disco\ered in opium a perquisite much greater ihan the customarj' squeeze applied to Chinese merchants. Businessmen soon recognized the profits to be made by financing illicit opium imparts for sale in Thailand and overseas, and formed alliances wilh government olficials to protect their investments. By the end of the last war. the monster the country had permitted to grow up had become so large and ils tentacles so widely spread that the government could hardly touch any part of it without feeling a twinge \n its own anatomy. In 1949 and I9S0. when it was hoped the illicit trullic had reached its peak, the government was realizing from S4,000.000 to S5.000.000 a year from all aspects of the legal opium trade. Smokers utre then consuming about twenty tons a year. Significantly, most of this was supplied to the divans by the governmenl monopoly from stocks of opiuin seized by the police. The opium cost the government no more than the rewards it paid to informers and police participating in ihe seizure.

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158 watched the preservers of intcrntil order face with deadly enmity the defenders of the country's borders. The impasse ended bloodlessly with the arrival from Bangkok of Phao Sriyanond, then a lieutenant general and deputy direeior general of police, and Maj. Gen. Sarit Thanarat, then commander of the Firït Army in Bangkok, now a full general and commandcr-inchief of the army. These friendly rivals took possession of the opium and escorted it to the capital, where il disappeared into an ocean of official silence. iMeanwhile, the press recorded an alarming string of small opium seizures. Opium was found hidden in women's sarongs, concealed in bu.sken of dried fish, stufTcd within the rinds of hollowed fruits, and once at least in the shoulder bag of a Buddhist priest. The trains bulged with it. Il was found in the paneling of dining cars, in the Cushions of chair cars, hidden m the cooks' paniries. and sunk in the water tanks of the engines. Renegade police, air force and army officers, taking a les.son from their superiors, frequently were caught transporting a ton or two of opium to agents in the capital. Trucks and trains and airplane from the north, often with the entire crews in the pay of traffickers, were relieved by thepoliccof ions of illicit opium. The Thai press covered thi.s phase of the opium traffic thoroughly, but for some reason the papers rarely mentioned the part played by master agents in Bangkok's Chinatown. Dark rumors fly through the town that this Chinese banker or that rich Chinese businessman is The Man. Whoever the big boss is, when the communists were ready to attend to the Yunnan end of the business somebody here had outlets already organized. This permilted the communists to carrj' on their trade through men who could in no way incriminate the Red government. The booming dope trafBc in the Far East became overnight a political problem of major imporiance. Opium prufiw could buy guns for Malayan. Indonesian and Philippine insurgenis, and fmance Red agents In Th.irland, Indonesia. Japan and Korea, even in the United States. International narcoiiirs agents noted a disturbing increase in shipments of illicit opium from Yunnan passing through Far East ports to the United Slates and Europe. Narcotics grown and refined in China reached American troops in Souih Korea, Japan, Okinawa and the Philippines by way of North Korea, Hong Kong and Macau. Opium derivalives from Chinese communist factories were pouring through Bangkok and RangoLin into Pacific ports and Europe. The Red government of China was obviously increasing opium production for the dual purpose of subversion and profit. In 1950, shortly afieT the Thai government set up ils aborlive Opium Suppression Committee, the Reds in China established Iheir own "Ami-Opium Bureaus—so called. Its job was to control the "state enterprise" of opium growing, refining and exporting. "Special-prodUCLS" companies were organised under government direction and a planning committee was set up to modernize ihe techniques of cultivating and processing the drug. Seven opium-growing districts are reported to have been established under Ihe new order. The largest is in the Kwangsi-Yunnan area that borders Laos and Burma, and supplies Thailand with most of its illicit opium. By an accident of history, ihe middlemen between Yunnan and Thailand are anticommunist Chinese—about 3000 former Kuomintang troops who fled from commun ist-occupied Yunnan and carved out an uneasy domain in the Shan Mountains. They grow opium and add it to the supplies they get from China and neighboritig tribal villages of Laos and Burma. It was they who turned over the famous twenty tons to the informer at the Maesai River last summer, if re|5orts arc correct, and their contact with the organization in Thailand is said to be very close. It is known that the organization in this country is allied with oihers around the world, and that here in Thailand governors of provinces, mayors, police officers, customs ofîieials and hundreds of other men in official uniforms have taken its bribes. It is known, too, that thousands of workers are in the ring's pay—crewmen on freighters traveling the seven seas, pilots and engineers on aircraft flying the world's airlanes. dockers, baggage attendants and a myriad of little men and women willing to risk a few months in jail

T H E

S A T U R D A Y

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cated—full of murder and things." Shortly before the prime minister spoke, the body ofa young man from the north had been found beside a country road in circumstances too public to ignore. It is said that the young man had come to the city to question the police about a share in an opium deal he felt was due him. He was getting nowhere when one night he sat with friends having a meal at an open-air restaurant at the edge of town. Three police officers drove up in a "big black sedan" and alighted to speak to the youth. After a few moments, the young man excused himself and drove off wnth the three officers. That was the last anybody ever saw of him alive. The next morning, less than a mile from the restaurant, the young man's body was found riddled with bullets. The

HAZEL

These and other measures were nounced without evoking public prote from the men affected. But when \ prime minister announced that divans would be closed as of Januc 1956, and that the use of opium thereaf would be> illegal in Thailand, there trouble. The finance minister confided^ the press that the question was giving] ministry "a splitting headache," Not i was he having difficulty finding a way| replace the S6,30O,OO0 annual rcvcntief opium monopoly brought in but the i erators of Thailand's 1091 licensed opij divans threatened to sue the gover for damages if they were forced to cj before their two-year licenses expit The excise department didn't know w|] to do with its opium-processing plant t the fifty tons ofopium in stock. The miá istry ofhealth reported that it, too, wasf a cleft stick. Where were they tofindi money and the means to reclaim me than 100,000 opium addicts? How they to finance the settlements that would have to be built to accommodate the ; diets while they passed through the ordc of withdrawal, and where were the neediJ doetors and nurses and psychiatrists? Other problems, even worse, faced i police. The new laws were bound to broken, because the price of illicit opiun would rise and profits to traffickers wotil^ increase. Higher prices would for pooreraddicls into crime. There wouldl illicit opium divans to ferret out. all more smuggling than ever to supply \ï The mountains and jungles and dim tnííD were still there, unguardabic, and trit "" men and Red Chinese would coniinuo] produce opium out of reach of the ! "We all know that this business rtiiJ slop," a high police official complain bitterly, "but how are we going to j ^ _ with our present force? Let them sttip growing opium in China and Burma and Laos, and we will stop its use here," It is generally believed here iKat-previous antiopium campaigns failed because the hands of too many men of importance were found in the till. If one haul of twenly tons could rock the government, people say. what might happen if the entire business were investigated? Yet the prime minister has committed his government to an absolute ban on the opium trade, legal and illegal. When problems involved in enforcement were brought home to him. he and his cabinet decided to postpone the demise of legalized opium smoking until 1957, the year by the Thai calendar that will mark the 25OOlh anniversary of Ihe birth of the Lord Buddha, From that year onward, the prime minister announced fiftnly, the Thai people and its government will eschew all the pleasures and profits of opium as a merit ofTering to the Lord Buddha. In the meantime, he proniiwd strong efforts to keep the traffic within legal bounds, and to begin a campaigtt to end addiction. Ihailand is a deeply religious country. It is entirely possible that the Lord Buddha will have more influence upon ihe consciences of certain officials and businessmen than the United Nations had in 1949. Bui the communists in China have no particular interest in Buddha's teachings, and a considerable interest in the corruption of the free world. And the hill .tribes of Burma, Laos and Thailand aren't likely to abandon a cash crop simply because a government they hardly know has issued an edict. Yet the prime minister sticks to his determination to stop the Rood. "This matter." he told his people, "concerns the reputation of the nation." This matter, he might have added, concerns the safety of this nation and of its allies across the seas. THE B N D

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for the profit io smuggling small quantities of opium into Bangkok. The organi/ation, until jusi recenlly, liad "secret" airlields in ihe jungles of Laos and Northern Thailand, at which air-force and civilian planes could take on contraband. It commanded, and probably siill commands, a fleet of fast motor launches to carry cases of opium by night from isolated Thai beaches to the coast of Malaya, where the cargo can be transferred into sampans. Its agents range from Bangkok to Hong Kong, Singapore, Macau, Manila, Tokyo, Calcutta, Cairo, Marseilles, New York and San Francisco. Against Lhis world-wide organization with its htige bank roll, the Thai government's early attempt lo halt Ihe opium irafTic seemed feeble. Occasionally Ihe police fought pitched battles with smuggling gangs along the frontier, and a number of courageous young men in yellow uniform.*: died trying to enforce laws some of their superiors were later arrested for breaking. But the traffic went on. Fear may have protected the big shots as much as the juicy bribes they offered, for goon gangs were hired lo protect the trade. The least an independent informer could expect was a pulpy face and broken bones. This slate of affairs led the prime minister to remark some months ago that "the opium question is very compli-

identity of the police officers was well known. Two of them were arrested immediately. The other, named by one of his colleagues as Ihe trigger man. disappeared. By a coincidence that caused much speculation, he had been sent to the north shortly after the murder, and thereupon vanished. By a second coincidence, the immediate superior of the three policemen was bundled off to study in the United States. The Black Sedan Murder Case, as it became known, served to illustrate the growing irresponsibility of the police, but the real complications of the opium question were less easily solved. The prime minister started out boldly enough to stem the flood of illicit opium. He ordered the police and other officials to enforce existing laws more diligently. He announced that no more rewards would be paid to informers or police for opium seizures. He ordered all government officials addicted to the pipe to take three months' vacation with pay and return to work cured or face discharge. General Phao, back from his chastening tour of America and Japan, also ordered his police to break the htibit, if they.had it, or lose their jobs. Secret airfields were defined by law, and it was made illegal for planes to land at any but designated airports except in emergencies.