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The BBC's Simon Ingram in Bangkok
"Only three years ago Mong Yawn was little more than a village"
 real 28k

Sunday, 11 March, 2001, 16:30 GMT
Thailand presses Burma on drug city
Thai village defence unit in action
Village defence units have been set up to catch smugglers
A huge Burmese drugs production "city" is being built close to the border with Thailand, according to the Thai prime minister.

Taksin Shinawat has demanded an explanation from Burma about the growth of Mong Yawn, which is controlled by the ethnic Wa group, allied closely to the Burmese military authorities.

An ethnic Burmese settlement where it is believed illegal drugs are manufactured
Burmese settlement where it is believed illegal drugs are manufactured
Mr Taksin, who was speaking at an anti-drugs conference in the Thai city of Chiang Rai, said satellite photographs had revealed the growth of the drug production facilities.

Thai officials said Mong Yawn had its own dam, hydro-electric plant, hotels and a casino.

The flow of illegal amphetamines from Burma into Thailand is likely to increase sharply this year, they added.

The war on drugs was a key theme of Thaksin Shinawat's recent election victory.

And BBC Bangkok correspondent Simon Ingram says Mr Thaksin is coming face to face with the realities of a narcotic craze that officials acknowledge has permeated every level of Thai society.

Briefing

Mr Thaksin said that he was determined to get some answers from Rangoon about the city.

A Bangkok police haul of methamphetamine
Methamphetamine abuse is rampant
"I want to hear the word clearly from Myanmar authorities that Mong Yawn is not under their responsibility," he said.

The prime minister's chosen strategy is to choke off the supply routes that ferry hundreds of millions of methamphetamine pills into Thailand each year from Burma.

The Burmese Government says Mong Yawn is beyond its control.

The regime insists it is committed to ridding the golden triangle region of a drug culture even more insidious than the opium trade that it has largely supplanted.

Methamphetamine abuse is so rampant among the young in Thailand that schools are carrying out random urine tests on their students.

Drug trafficking has become a growing issue of dispute between the two countries in recent years.

It was also seen as a factor behind recent armed clashes along the border that left several people dead.

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See also:

13 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Thailand battles drug factories menace
11 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Thai jail swap investigated
24 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Thailand blames Burma for drugs rise
06 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Burma's powerful drug industry
21 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
Thais shut down online pharmacies
19 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
Counting the cost of crime
30 Jul 99 | Asia-Pacific
Thais shoot to kill
23 Feb 00 | South Asia
UN concerned over drugs in Asia
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