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Saturday, 2 June, 2001, 09:08 GMT 10:08 UK
China holds drugs kingpin
The opium fields of Burma's
Golden Triangle drugs increasingly pour through China

From Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Beijing

China is claiming a major victory in its war against armed heroin gangs operating inside Burma's Golden Triangle.

State media has announced that one of the kingpins of the heroin trade - a Chinese-born drug boss Tan Xiaolin - has been captured and handed over to China by Burmese authorities.

Heroin
There is growing demand for heroin in China itself
They have also arrested 18 members of Tan's armed gang and seized three tonnes of heroin.

State-run media is calling this the biggest coup against the Golden Triangle drug gangs in nearly half a century.

For nearly 10 years, Tan had been running what the media are describing as the biggest armed drug smuggling group inside the Triangle.

From there, the gang shipped large quantities of heroin through South-west China to Hong Kong and then on to the rest of the world.

Preferred route

Tan was caught in April, after a year-long man-hunt which China says involved close co-operation with police in Burma.

China has long been the preferred route of Burma's drug gangs to get their product to the outside world.

But in recent years, China itself has started to become a major market for the heroin producers.

Drug addiction is now a serious problem in many of China's cities.

It has prompted the authorities in Beijing to take a much tougher line against the drug gangs and to strengthen co-operation - not just with Burma, but also with Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

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See also:

28 Mar 99 | Asia-Pacific
Burma fights opium trade
22 Mar 00 | Asia-Pacific
Chinese drugs crackdown
19 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
US seeks Chinese drugs crackdown
25 Nov 97 | Despatches
Chinese Ecstasy haul
06 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Burma's powerful drug industry
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