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Tuesday, 26 April 1988
Page: 1847

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Senator VALLENTINE —I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade whether he has seen the article in the Weekend Australian on 16 April by D. D. McNicoll relating to drug war lord «Khun» «Sa» or whether he saw the subsequent program on A Current Affair in which an Australian television reporter, Stephen Rice, interviewed «Khun» «Sa» at his headquarters in eastern Burma. What is the Government's reaction to «Khun» Sa's offer to destroy up to half the world's annual heroin supply in return for $50m in cash or agricultural aid for the next eight years, given that this year there was a record crop of opium which will soon be hitting the streets of Sydney and other centres in Australia with a devastating effect on the lives of many Australians? Given that the problem is essentially political, as «Khun» «Sa» uses the money from opium sales to finance the struggle for independence by the Shan people in eastern Burma, has the Government been approached about the possibility of acting as a mediator between the rebel hill people around the borders of Burma, including the Shans, and the central government of General Ne Win in Rangoon? If so, what is our position and, if not, would the Government seriously consider acting in such a role, given that these wars have been going on for 40 years and opium is the main source of finance for many of the rebel armies?


Senator GARETH EVANS —It does seem to be the case that the Burmese opium war lord-I think he is properly so described- «Khun» «Sa» is said to have offered to eliminate all drug trafficking and production in his territory if the Australian Government will provide him with aid to the value of $50m a year for eight years. Needless to say, this is not an offer which the Government would seriously consider. In fact, I think it involves a degree of breathtaking naivety to take any of this at face value. «Khun» «Sa has a record of 25 years of violence and narcotics trafficking. He is not a revolutionary leader but a major drug trafficker. The Australian Government is simply not in the business of paying criminals to refrain from criminal activity. Of course, the Government cooperates with regional governments in fighting drug production and trafficking. It is also closely involved in action within the United Nations system to counter drug problems. We have not been approached to act as a mediator between the Burmese Government and insurgent groups within Burma. In the circumstances there is no advantage in speculating on what our response to such an approach might be.