Created: 3/1/1973

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Northwest Thailand: Geographic Factors Affecting lbs Illicit Movement of Opium from Burma's Shan State



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Northwest Thailand! Geographic Factors Affecting the Illicit Movement of Opium from Burma's Shan State

northwest thailand bsparsely populated area ol eitremely rugged terrain servedem of roads and trails. many of its people belong to the hill tribes who have migrated from the rich poppy-growing country of burma's shan state, contiguous to the north. opium armies have flourished here and in other parts of the burmi-thttland-laos "golden triangle" for more than two decades.

illicit movement of narcotics into northwest thailand from burma lonlinues despite crackdowns on opium trafficking by tiw governments of the three "golden triangle" countries, if the enforcement agencies of the thai government [rto) plug the major smuggling avenues through thailand's northwestern border area, tho traffickers may increasingly use routes across the mekong river into laos or remote pastes into thailand farther. moreover. if leaders of the chinese irregular forces (cif, formerly called the kmt) keep their prombes tout of the opium business, smuggling routes need no longer be focused on their headquurtcrs ntsalong and tham ngop. recent intelligence reports claim that opium caravans from the shan stale have indeed been shiftinc their crosi-bordor routes westward. increasingly using trails through mae hong son province.

ceographtc factors largely determine how, where, and when opium ta moved from shan stale poppv fields to transshipment camps in northwest thailand. geography also affrcls rtg efforts in interdict the opium traffic rugged terrain has retarded the construction of all-weather roads in ihe region and necessitated the continued use of horses and mules lo carry illicit cargoes along mountain trails across the burma-thailand frontier. the pack trains cross the border through one of (he few lowland passages or, increasingly, through remote mountain passes. the trails traverse varied vegetation: in places they are totally hidden from aerial detection by dense canopies of tropical evergreen forests, elsewhere they are partly obscured by more open deciduous forests, and inat places they are completely esposed as they cross denuded grassy slopes. while in most areas pack trains of several hundred animals could be readily detectad. small pock trains would be difficult for rtc interdh.'tkm personnel to spot from hellropt-'ri or small planes. mostoved frnm the fields to the transshipment points during the dry season: slippery trsuis itmd the amount of opium that can be movtd during the wet months.


I. Northwest Thailand. cncnmpuuing most ofHntig Son ami Chiang Mui Province* mid the western third of Chiang Haldeal smuggling territory (See fold-out map, followingts mountainous Irrrulii, iIn* mini rugged In the country, has retarded Ihe extension ill all-weather roads In In Ihedbenuraced large-scale settlement by ihi lowland Thais, and minimuvd the presence ol RTC officials. Trails, used hy pack animals undaunted by the difficult terrain, crisscross tbe region and connect through low Und and mountain passes withpju field* nf Burma's Shan State.

2ike (hat of the Appalachian region of the United Stales, dominated by north-south ridges andlopes are sleep, ridgvs are broken by few puses, vallryi are rarely moreew miles wide,itreami ire deeply incited and treaeheroni (Figure IX Ridge creiti Ihi al elevationseet, and valley bottomseet. Peaks may rue well above the ridges: Do' Inthanon. aboutiles southwest of Chiang Mai and (he highest peak In Thailand, towers to moreeel tiUive *ssi Irvi'l. Breaking Ihe Keneralpattern an-ugged mountain* unbroken byspeclalN In northern Mac Hung Son Provincelgure21

0 The lowlands akm* the valley* nf the northward. flowing Norn Mae (River) Fang uml tlie *nutliw*rd-fluwlnging -re up toiles wide and contain the mu|nr cllles of Northwest ThailandChiang Mai (the second largest In the countryihiangasibbon of smaller towns and villages strung along the highway that extends from Chiang Mai to Tha Ton. Fields o' wetland riceprinkling of oilier crops hlaukeid Itetween the highway and ihe foothills on either sklen the vast block of territory between ihe Ping Valley and the Thai-Burma bonier, lowlands are narrow and isolated. No moreiles wide, they may extend tn discontinuous stretches for several miles along the ma|or st.-eams nf theIhe Nam Mae Taeng. the Nam Mae Pal, and the Nam Mae Yuam. Tbe largestHong Son. Mae Sariansj, andiltuated In these vallew,


hiWI JiWllT

FIGUREont landscape. Crooay. dtniely forested, ocd lightly ptepltd linmien terroin li KOttertd iruouah. out Northwaii Thailand. While such ttrroin Imptdti movement, toil* dtrfvtd from IkmttfOi* ore Woolly wittd fir poppy cultivation. lew-lying clouds oniric! aerial observation during much of Iht rainy Mown.

alignment of terrain featum north-touth and the paucity of passes through the rldgei have channeled most transportation arteriesorth-south direction. Only one good road crosses the mountains, linking Mae Hong Son Province with the rest of the country. Even the major trails, which ire usually aligned along or river valleys, rarely cut across the grain of the terrain.

The terrain along the border between Northwest Thailand and Burma Is also rugged, broken Inew places by lowland passages. These passages are used as border crossing routes by villagers living in tho frontier areas of both Burma and Thailand. An extensive paddy-covered lowland at the extreme northern part of the border, centered on the towns of Taehllek end Mae Sal, serves as the major communication corridor between the twoood road leads southward from Mae Sal through Chiang Hal to Bangkokair road northwestward from Taehllekg Tung and other points In Burma.

orty miles to the southwest of Mae Sal. the deeply Incised valley of the Num Mae Kok forms another pastagc through the rugged and lightly populated border terrain. General Tuatiifth Chinese Irrcgnlur Forces(CIF)enmples at Mac Salong. In the mountains to the cast of the Nam Mae

Kok. has servedajor storage and transshipment point for Shan State opium (Figure 41

A third major break In the border mountains occurs aboutiles southwest of the Nam Mar Kok crossing. Thb corridorader thanone formed by the Nam Maetoilesb rolling, heavily forested, and largelyrail extendi from Uunuu through the corridor Into Thailand andth the Fang -Chiang Mai highway aboutmiIIiFang. The trail is difficult to discern from ihe air through the exceptionally dense Iruf canup) nf then the corridor. Rounded limestonerolwNy howytrtmled withthat ct<tikliivd to en-he Illicit cargoes being smuggled across the border, flunk the passage. Ccitcrul Li Wcti-hoaii* Third CIKAnm and the Kachln IndcpeiKlcncc Amiiv's Office of Kachln Foreign Affairs%overal other Shan State Insurgentnsr cump* In the Thum Ngup urea, on the eastern skle of the passage (Figurehebase served a* transshipment and storage sites for upturnthe Shan State.

The block of Imnler mountain* between tl.l* Inwlind and the point whrro theturn* southward near ISNS'N,mltfi>leiiowland gap. Several Imnlcr pM nl ek'sullim*

PK5URF.ort ol Ha CIF Mld<oortm o. Mo. Solon,.bold h. famaraml bord..



eet. however, are crossed by trails. (See fold-out block diagram, folio wins-lready used by some opium pack trains from Burma, these passes are likely lo receive heavier ute by juch caravan! If the major lowland passages lo the east are blocked by BTC enforcement units. Border terrain to the southwest'Eomples lyitem of low mountain!umber of passes providing rmss-border links. The Pal River flowi westward to the Salween and provides the mafor communication! corridor between Mae Hoog Son Province and Burma.

n much of Northssesl Thailand the vegetation obscures to varying degrees opium-laden pork trains from aerial view. Broadteid forests with both evergreen and deciduous trees blanket molt of theexcept fur the brooder valley floors that are under cultivation and those higlwr ridges that are In grasslands or udcii coniferous and oak forest. DeciduousIncluding commercially cspi'iitcdIn drier tracts, particularly on Icrward slope* (Figure Si; fergrrcus predominate in wetter areas such as those along streams ami on windward,



slopes (Figurei-fluing andfarming of rice, mailt, and poppies hovecleared vast areas of (heir original cover; abandoned fields In various stage- of regrowth nock mark the forrslrd slopes (Figureall stands of virgin forest are restricted tu remote tract*

Trails are easily detectable from ibe air only where ihey inverse land cleared for cultivation. K- -sttland* or relatively open forests on the ridges. Of, from January to April, leafless deckluous forests. Trails ma> heidden from air ubsomtion for miles where they pusi under the unbroken canopies of dense evergreen sti-nds.

The wetry season cycle that controls the agricultural rhythms of Ihe Thai farmer alsoole in the movement ef opium curavani and In RTC interdiction operations. The wet season for the region starts in May or earlv June and continues Into October. Although three-quarters or more of the annual precipitation falls during this five-month period and rain may be heavy and prolonged, showers may fall at any lime nf the year (seearked disparity In rainfall usually occurs between windward (south- and west-facing) and leeward (north- and east-facing) slopes; rain may be heavyindward slopeeew-ard slopeew miles away Is cloud-free. Trails are consequently more often aligned along the leeward side of ridges.

Traffic on trails and secondary roads mav be slowed or halted for extended periods during the rainy season by mud. landslides, earth slumps, fallen trees, or by high water In fords. Flash floods, which occur in constricted valleys during heavy ralni,inundate Iralliay or more. Sw-ollen waters, on the other hand. Improve the navigability of major streams during much of the rainy teason, and these streams may serve as alternate routes to replace unusable roads or trails.

pium popples are planted late in the rainy season, from August to early October, and harvestedanuary to March. Puck trains from Ihe Insurgent bases In Northwest Thailand uhiiuIIv start to move northward into Ihe Shan Stale early iu the dry season. In November or Deermhvr. and most of the Shan Stole crop Is moved from ihe growing ureas In entrepots such as Tachllek. Mac Stilong. or Tham Ngop before the rains start In May or June. Haw opium can be stored Indefinitely without spoilage, however, and fluctuation In prices and Ihe presence of interdictionlong the smuggling routes may create delays. Movement of the caravans to the Shun Stale growing areas and back to the transshipment points In Thailand inay therefore occur at nny time of the year. Tbelowed during the rainy seuioti. and the load borneingle horse or mule is reducedW pounds to aboutounds so that ihe animal can more effectively cope with slippery' trail conditions.

louds, mist. fog. andhile not Interfering significantly with the movement of opium caravans, do at times obscure Ihem from detection by aerial reconnaissance. The c'ojdowest In the morning, when valleys and lower slopes are oftensually lifts to well above the ridges later In the day. During much of the rainy season, however, mountainalontf which segment* of the caravan routes areremain shrouded in clouds all dev. Cloud cover, likereatest on windward slopes, least on leeward ilopes- Whileinimal during the dry irmon. fog and hare may be |Mrtkul<*ly Intenv ui ihb time of >ear. Fog commonlyIn valley bottoms In the early morning during the dry season whileby fire* set by farmers In the valleys and on ihereduces air-to-ground vblblllly during the entire day.


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l-S. Thenetssia-kThailand Is the least developed In therush Thai Guvvrnmrnt nwo-holldliiii program to connect |own* and village* In remote border areas with the main highway, most vllluicc* and manytho small brans remain reachable by jiiturrxiliilc only In the dr* season atM such as Mao Hong iwm and Pal. for example, an* linked with the rent of llic country during much ofain) nvaxHi by miry roads usable only by pack animals und animal-drawnven nn newly constructed roads travel by automcblle may be treacherous during heavy rains, espccialls In mountainousense network of trulls, used bv pack animals, remains the key element of thetem. Although their traffic*blllt) Is reduced by slickened surfaces during much of the rainy season, trails aie usedear round. Most rivers In the region ire shallow and turbulent and of limited use for navigation. Athe Ping, tho Kok, the Pal. and theseasonally navigable by small craft for much of their lengths and locallythe roads and trnlls.


Ifl. There are only thne major paved all-weather maRoute I. the country'* principal north-soothlikli extend* from Ihe lairdcr at Mui .Sul through Chiang Halmpuug lu Bangkok; (Inhiang Mai highway, which iswnctti *skhtnd the nesvly constructed mud between Chlung Mai und Mac Surlung. Even these muds, ulthnugh well constructed with iihhJ drulnugc and wWI-cngirscered tr*dhedx,nd bridges, mny If subject to truffle Interruption* during exceptionally heuvy ruins. The first two nmd* traverse gentle grades through puddy-cs'cml valleys fur much of theii lengths. Itut the Chlung MaiMue Satlang mud bucks the gruln of the terrain, u'ccmling und descending fairly steep slopes

rimary roads arc little (raveled by pack trains, least of all by those carrying opium. Such Caravans

' Poppy-irowlni. hillnth*rst have msmtrd thaof the now rotd. btauu thayUtM enlllvaiam utdindt.

ttaiotJl ntendM north of Fani to lh* horuVr lown ol Tha Ton, irawW tadt*ln(

ood. The Ion. cor, sell b. |eUsed by oto-n. ond .iiloo.s. Dospit.this rood moy b, unusobi. by most motor vahicl..

transfer their lllicll cargoes lo minor vehicles cither ut road heads several miles (mm the main hlghwuy nf at remote and well-hidden sites uhmg the main roads. Bothnd the Chiangang highway have been Important routes for nurcotlcs-laden motor vehicles en mute In UungLnl The Chiungtie Sarlang road, on the other hand, has ban no such reputation. If RTC Interdiction pressures are effective In the Mae Sal and Fang areas, however. Shun State opium smuggled Intoong Son Pmvlnee as well a* opium harvested In the province could be channeled to Bangkok along this mad. Out because traffic onheckpoint established near Ban Tha Kham Kua woulderrent to Us use by smugglers.

ew lecondary roods, nirh as the one Unkind Mae Sua) withouth of Chiang Ral, are surfaced with gravel, cruihed stone, or laterlte and are closed only during exceptionally heavy rams (Figure OX Most secondary roads are fair-weather, however, and even during the diy wason are usable by standard automobiles only withigany am impassable even by Jeeps during wet weather when they become rihbons cf deeply rutted mud. Pack animals and animal-drawn carts, some carrying lllklt cargoes, form the major part of the year-round traffic on most secondary roads. Motorcycles and motor scooters, able to traveise roads that are too muddy to be used by larger motor vehicles, also make short-distance runs.

IB. Mil Kong Son has always been one of the most bolated provinces In Thailand. Until the pastoean, there was as much travel and trade between the province and Burma asnd Thai territory to the east and south. The Pal Riverore Important avenue te the outilde world than any of the trills leading to tho >est nf Thailand. The Japanese built roads from Chiang rV.ll Into Mao Hong Son during World War II. but they fell Into dbuse soon after the war. Now. however, the ill-weather road between Chiang Mul and Mae Sarlang, aligned along an old caravan 'rail, provides good eomm unseat Ions for tho southern part of the province, and construction of an all-weather mud from Mae Sarlung north to Mae Hongnderway. Tbe southern half of the latter mad. between Mae Sariung and Khun Yuom. has Isren graded and surfaced. It is. however. In poor repair and usable only by four-wheel drUe vehicles during much of thu rainy season- Nitrth of Khun Yuuin, thengraded ando helleroturuble track In some northern

oVweerhar rood during the dryIn the rainy seasonrood becomes muddy and Iro-raitoble lor most motor vshkUs.

sections and may be Impassable by any motor vehicle lor weeks itlime during wet weather.

The onlv road In the northern part nf the province leads from Mae Hong Son through Pal to thehiang Mai highway at Mae MalaL Initially constructed by the Japanese In World War II. Us extremely rugged western section between Mtr Hong Son andowther track for four-wheel drive vehicles.under fivornlJe weather conditions, such vehicles would require moreays to Traversemile section. East of Pal the road, although only dirt surfaced and containing many oirvei andri better condition and probably negotiable for its entire length by heavy -duty automobiles during dry weathert has been in ivenue for opium-laden pucklh from Burma and from the poppy-gmwlng area of northern Mae Hong Son Province, The puck trains have transferred their loads to molor vehicles In ihemile section of the road, which remains Irifflcablc during most of the year.

A fair-weather road that laps the peppy* growing mountains north of Dot Inihuuon may be used by caravans of portur* or pack animals to carry the local crop to market, ll connects the Hjo Dael tin mine, aboutiles north of Ool Inthuuon, with Mae Rim. aboutiles tn the east mi the Fang -Chiangl Another fair-weather mud connects Mio Chaem.mall valley oboutiles southwest of Dol Inlliunon, with the Chbiiii* Mul -Mae Sarlang road, intersecting the Luilcr about 12

_ "SKtlEI


wrst of nan Th. Khant Kua Thel-flunking the valley an? oo* knownajor-cultivating ri-iiniri. however, und Iherobably lilllr uhiIan opium mute.

woir-wc al Iter muds Ihut branch off the mum north-south highway* jre of special tntcn-st in narcotics interdiction operations. One leads westward fnwn Ihehiang Mai highway forfew miles toward the insurgent camp* near Thorn Ngop; the other extends westward fromor several miles toward Ihe Fifth GIF Army's Mae Salong headquarten.


orthwest Thailand's dense network of trollsey role In both the legitimate movement of people and goods between vtlloges and towns of the region ond tho Illicit smuggling of opium across the Durmo-Thoi frontier Although the trolls crisscrossnd ridge* in seemingly random putlents. some general ruleseirrolls connect neighboring villages. Dead-end trail* link Ihe village* with theirhich may I* several miles away. Trails lead from hill village* In towns In theften wklening Into fair-weal her mods on the lower slopes before thef reached. Many slopes aa* steep and trails muMumber ofespite thr sw itch bocks. moven.eut on the slopes, even by turr-footcd pock animals, remains ta'uchcmus. Trails are often aligned along ridgellneig distances because vegdatlnri atop the rldgei Is tuaise and the terrain relatively gentle (Figuresnd Ul. Where ridges ore markedly sow-touthed or otherwise difficult to traverse, trolls descend Into the voileys. Trails extend along oil major river volleys of Ihe region, vegetation In the volleys, however. Is often dense, and when water level permits, trail* may follow trie stream bod for several miles.

II. Dirt rood& ond Mai Motel Th* rood, mod moilty by pock onimalsl-dracarts end lattt* by motor vehkles, windsoroiltd rnouflfoins (or moil of it* length.



op 'roll. Crtm or* commonly i_ _ ^

fomtfd, and pock traml con mova for mat*- ^


ountoln (rail. Whs* no* oligntd along crests, troili often traverse dry leeward ilopas.

Mm^wtmngsHrm ;iT-Zt '

Although most streams are ford able by portersnimals. major rivers such as the Nam Mae Kok frequently must be crossed on rafts or boats. During heavy rain riven rise quickly, and deep water and swift currents may preclude the use of fords across even small streams. Once tbe rain stops, however, water level drops almost as rapidly as it rose, and travelers need wait no more than one or two days to make the crossing.

ariety of vehicles and animals use the trails of Northwest Thailand, Short trail segments In the lowlands and foothills arc negotlob'e by motorcycles and motor scooters although otherwise little used by motor vehicles. Entrepreneurs with motorcycles provide shuttle service for passengers or limited amounts of cargo betweenlong roads and tha trafflcable sections of the tralli Opium reportedly has been smuggled from the frontier area west of Fang to tbeha Ton mod by convoys nf motorcycles, but motorcycles do not in factignificant amount of cargo, licit or illkit, through tho region,

SR. Became of the' paucity of all>wcatherbuf fakirs, own. elephants.mulcs-aro Med moro In

mm aug mi

oktihifl bomboa (tiry. Vnwlioi mil on* mint b* uwd fo trail both major ond minor ilrtomi during high wattr.


h Jul cargo ihon In any other part of thr country. Caili pulled hy twn water buffaloes nr men can carry up ta WlO pound* nf cargolthough huflulucs arc confined to gentle terrain, oxen phi move along all but Ihe moreff knit mountain Ira Ik Both can travel up to IIay, Oxen ared a* packften traveling in wrovunt. Each animal carrle* ai muchounds. Caravani of men were the principal means of supplying Mae Hong Sun Province before the construct km of lite Chiang Mai -Mae Sor-onsr, road Elephants. In addition to being used In toggingie used as pack animals. Tlwy can travel up toay In rugged countryaximum loadounds each.

ules and small horses, each carryingnd ISOravel lit puck truins nf as many as several hundred animals. They are the major movers of cargo. Including opium, through the mountainousof the Burma-Thai frontierhese sure-footed animals, although not particularly fast, con negotiateie steepest trails, at all times uf the year. An unhurtted horse-ond-mu'c pack train moves aboutilesay,iles per hour In level countryiles per hour In mountainous terrain. Pack trains cannot move after sundown unless the night Issjhl. the terrain level, and the trail good. Pack animals can travel for no more thanours without substantial rest, and they require anday or two of rest afterays on the trail. At

tdarrdurft0 poundi during lorn trios or

least one suchc*|iilred, tlierefnrv. on Journey* from deep In the Shan Stole to camps In Northwx-sl Thailand. Mint hill tribe villages own several down hor*es or mules whkh can he purchased by caravan leoders In supplement the caravan or to replace weary or Injured animals. Pack liains for CIF opium procurement trips Into the Shan State have beenol staging area* near the CIF camp* In Northwest Thailand.

VI Porters, with toads up loounds on their bocks, operate "ponv express" style between Ihe mountain village* of the region. They alto move opium cargoes from domestic growing areas or storage si'es to transshipment points when thehort. They travel at about tlie some speedorse-and-mule pock train.


fornown, the rivers ofhove been little used by opiumstreams are used ot least seasonally,move cargo and passengers and could also beopium traffickers to circumvent Interdictedroads.

x-drown cart. Such vehWet, trtobUmuddesl roods, corry much of the cargo In .

Fjr meat of their lengths. Ihe rivers flow-through constricted valleys and have steep gradients with numerous rapids. Some stream sections, hoover, ore navigable by rafts or other shallow-draft vessels. Since water levels ore highest In the middle months of the rainy season when many secondary ruotb an Impassible, some of the toad traffic may be diverted to the streams. Rut water levels fluctuate considerably during the rainy season, and craft thai eonegmenttream with no dlflkutty one day may hove to be poled or pulled through the lame segment on the next.

The Nam Mae Sal, which form* the Burma-Thai border for aboutholiow. meonderlng stream.nly knee deep during most oi the year ol Tachilck and Moe Sol. and porten have for years smuggled Shan State opium across It Into Thailand. Waters ore sufficiently high during the rainy season lo permit crosi-border movement by pirogues, long and narrow native boats usually powered by outboard motors.

The Nam Maehe stream In Nnrthwest Thailand most likely lo he used by opium-carrying vessels- Fromhe Shan Staleows through the caravan transit town nf Motig ll*ul, then through rugged, heavily forested, ond lightly peopled


terrain before meandering Into Thailand, through Chiang Ral. and on to the Mekong. The Fifth CIF Armyamp at Ban Muangile north of th* Nam Mar Kok andllei from th*Although imall craft can negotiate the nver between Mong Htut und Bun Muang Ngain during most of th* year,ot known to huve been channeled through thla section. Downriver from the CIF camp tbe stream Is deeper and less encumbered with shoals and exposed rocks and Is used by pirogues and bamboo rafti. Between Chiang Ral and tho Me* kong theavigable year-round by launches. Opium transported overland to Ban Muang Ngam could be moved on the Nam Mae Kok to oVmnrtvcr transshipment points or shipped all the way lo the Mekong. Thure has also been some movement of opium from points lu Duma down thMekong and up the Nam Mae Kok, then Into tributary streams below Chiang Ral from *hkh It has been transferred to trucks for shipment to Maeham Ngop, or other points along Route I.

Ping and its western tributary th*Taeng have their headwaters In thewest of Fang. Although both areto be used for th* southward movementfrom th* Shan State, the Nam Mae Tsengnavigable and (Ire Ping Is navigable only anorth of Chiang Mai. The Ping, however,used by pirogues and launches southMai and. before constructfDam north of Tak in the earlycaravans traveling southward alongridges west of thehiang Maicargoes to boats south of Chiang Mai.

Pal River, which flows westward In |nlnInajor eross-liorderBurma and Northwest Thailand. Itsth* Shan Stale poppy fields and fromThailand transshipment points,limited Its useoute for opium smugglingAs fur us Is known. It Is nut currentlythis purpose, but It has been an Important route

IW the lllkril movi-ment nf otherrull lost* were I'lrmcriy flouted Into Hiirrna while gem stone* from Shun State mine* hevi heeit. and prohahlt continue to he, shipped into Thailand. Movement on tbesually by raft orhe latter js much as Ml feel long with capacities up topeople Swift and turbulent currents preclude uprlvcr movement during much of the rainy season.

he Nam Mae Yuam. with headwaters south of Mae Hons Son. Is seasonally navigable by small craft from north of Mae Sarlang to ihe Salween. Navigation is mostly by bamboo rafts, which measure up loeet byeet, have capacities upounds, and are used primarily to carry rice Unless current smuggling patterns drastically change, the Yuam. like the Pal, will remain unused by Ibe nplum traffickers

he Salween slices through the Shan State, dividing It Into two parts, and downstrram forms the Burma-Thai border for aboutiles.eeply Incised for mmt of its Icngin and is not fordable at any point by motor vehicle or animal, Movement nf opium pack trains from growing areas west of the Salween to transshipment points lo the east, therefore, must be channeled across the river either at the Ta-kaw bridge or at ferry crossings such as Wan llsa-la. While ferries do cross the rivetoints, otherocalized: turbulent currents and numerous rapids limit navigation to no moreew miles by even shallow-draft vessels.


outes used by opium caravans from Burma Into Thailand do notingle trail buteries of Interconnecting trolls, whose primehe handling of short-haul traffic between local towns and villages. Alignments of the opium routes orefrom one trip to Ihe nest In response to changes In trod conditions (for example, lo higher ground during highhanges In market and transshipment sites, and changes In focus of Interdiction efforts along the border. Elaborate radio networks that caver the urea from the Insurgent bases In Northwest Thailand to tne poppy-growing areas In the Shan Stole provide the opium caravans with advancef the whereabouts of Burmese Covimment (CUB) and RTG Interdiction unlit os wrll os of competing opium armies.egmentraillocked, tbedjusted to bypass that segment. With Increased Inlerdktkm pressure by lite RTG ami. hoiivfully. by the CUB, alignments von be expected Iu change mure frequently.

A few routes hove traditionally handled mmt of the opium traffic from Burma Into Thailand. Chief among these has been the one that crosses the Nam Mae Sol from Tachtirk to Mae Sol. Pressure by both the RTC ond ihe GUB against opium smugglers In the post year, however, has reduced Illicit cross-Under movement at thb point. Before the pressure was applied, subsluntlol amounts of narcotics were carried by porters across ihe sholluw stream, sometimesew hundred yards of ihe Tochilck -Moe Sol bridge, ot other timesiles east of the bridge. Porters either transferred their loads to trucks on the south bonk of lire river or carried It, skirting Moe Sol to live west or to the east,ransfer point onouth of the town. Small amounts hove oho been transported across the bridge in packages carried by pedestrians or cydbls or hidden in official CUB vehicleslthough inhabitants living on both skies of the border are still permitted to cross the bridge. Ihelr packages are now subjectedtringent scorch. Cross-border movement of opium cargoes atac Sal has not been limitedouthward direction: reports hove indicated that opium from theClFcompot Mue Solong hot been transported by pock train ond trucks through Moe Chon to Moe Sai. then across the river to TachilekIF camp,uspected refineryocated in the rugged birder hills several miles southwest of Moeell-hidden troll parallelingxtends southward from the complex, Joining the highway several miles to the south.

The Fifth CIF Army Headquarters ot Moeocated tn nigged country aboutrules west of Moe Choniles east of the Burma-Thailand riorder. Associated camps ond villages ore scatteredadius of several miles on both sides of the border. Thb complex has been the principal storage and transshipment area for Fifth Army opium shipments from Burma Most pock trains have followed trolls through Mong Hsot. moved along the volley of the Nam Moe Kok for several milesoint where Ihe volley becomes partlculorly heavily forested and Inhospltoble, then turned eastward Into Thailand and followed mountain trolls along the border to Moe Salong. Other pock train* htivc entered Thailand near Ban Pong Po Kluule border west

he Iwrrito-Thaaoisd bordssr al Mot SoL Tha bridga oeroti tha Ma* Sal giW hata crossing point for llfcit rKjrcofsct into Trwaond. Pornm hov* otto carried tvotcolkl oerow lh* river downttntont from mt bridg*.

to* Nam Mm Kok. then followed along th* Nam Mao Kok to Ban Muang Ngam and ncrtheut to Mae Salong. From Mae Salong the opium, or Iti derivative* If refined at the camp, has been moved along traits by porters or pack animals,astward towardr southwarJ toward the Fifth Army camp at Ban Muang Ngam. Road conditions permitting, eastwardcargoes have been transferred to trucks at the roadheaci several miles west of the highway. Pack trains moving southward have crossed the Nam Mae Kok near Ban Muangboats or rafts If the water bcontinued southweslward towards the Thaang road.

he Tham Ngop area, on the western slopesdswiles west of the Thaang highway andile or two Inside Thailand, has been the major ten.ilnus for tbe opium caravans of both the Third CIF Army and the Kachln Independence Army (KIA1 Most caravans have reached the Tham Ngop camps from Burmaoute that enters Thailandiles to the west. (See fold-out block diagram, followinghis route passes through Mong Pan In Burma,IFocated, crrmes the Salween by ferry, then enters Thailandn the border mountains that leads to the town of Ban Plang Luang.

iles Inside the border The Ban Plang Luang region hasest area for caravans continuing eastward to Tham Ngop or southward Into the Nam Mae Taeng valley.

cargoes of the ShanArmy (SURA) may be transferredtrains arriving from the Shan State tofor the final leg of theo(SURAamp on the northern outskirtsPlang Luang; the Third CIFiles to Ihe northwest and 4to th*rom Ban Plang Luang, it hJourney along trails to Tham Ngop:alf-day trip by trail to thehiangIllicit cargoes have usually beenporters or pack ar.lmali to motor vehicles atheew miles west of the htglisvay.

most Tham Ngop-bound caravansthe Ban Plang Luang route, when havetrails from the north, probably crossmgween at Wan Hsa-la and traversing athrough Mong Ton. This road degeneratesnters the henvlly forested andlimestone valley south of Monghave moved eastward at this pointtrails through less difficult terrain,well to the north of Tham Ngop.



Pack trains entering Thailand at Ban Plang Luang. Insteadurning raslwanl tn Tham Ngop, may continue southwardrail througharrow valley of the Nam Mao Tacng. Opium harvested from nnrthem Mae Hong Son Province and from hills flanking the valley Is also shipped along thb route. Some opium has been processed at refineries run by the Third CIF Army. SL'HA, and others at Isolated locations along the route. Caravans have several optionsmay transit the entire length o! the valkry and load theirnto trucks on thehiang Mai highway near Mae Taeng or. during dry weather,oadhead at Ban Sop Kai. aboutiles from the highway.y leave the valley near Ban Muang Haeng, traverse trails across the mountains to Ihe east, and transfer cargoes to trucks north of Chiang Dao. (The area of the Chiang Dao caves,iles north of thenown to be one such transferinally, caravans may leave the Nam Mae Taeng trail ut Ran Sop Kai. fork to Ihe right andrail and fair-weather mud southward to thoae Mulai mad.

pium caravans enter hik Mae Hour: Sou Province thnsugh paws west ol Ran Plung Luang can move southeastward along the fair-weather mod that links Mae Hong Son wilh Pal and thehiang Mai highway at Mae Malal The area from Mar Hong Son north to theajor poppy growing area, and its opium harvest may also lie exported along this route. Cargoes can be transferred to trucks In the Pal area during dry weather: during rainy weather, however, pack trains probably have lo carry the opium most of the way to Mae MolaL Recent Intelligence reports Indicate that small pack trains have carried opium from the area west of Pal towards thehiang Mai highway, not along the rood but cross-country through the hills well to the south of IL

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Original document.

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