The Opium Warlords

A third of the world's black market opium comes from the Shan State of Burma, where rival warlord armies betray and ambush each other's convoys in a desparate struggle for control of the opium trade. This first inside report ever made on the South-East Asian, narcotics business was shot during 18 months in the guerilla-held opium regions as a pilot for this series. (It is available in 16mm Eastman Colour in 50 and 75 minute versions.)

This film winds up one of the main themes of the series - Asian armies financed by opium - at the same time as it introduces a new concept. In the programme, the Shan armies propose to sell to the U.S. government 400 tons of opium a year. This would have the effect of diverting one third of the world's illicit narcotics onto the licit medicinal market. The opium is urgently needed by U.S. drug companies who are expected to run out of codeine and morphine by the end of 1975 and is cheaper than legal opium grown in Turkey and India.

The conclusion of the film relates how the Shan leader sent to negotiate with the U.S. embassy is arrested by members of the Thai military government who were his partners in smuggling; how the Bureau head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in Bangkok suppressed the proposals and was later sacked; how Committee Chairman, Congressman Lester Wolfffe's, attempts to have the proposals investigated were blocked by the State Department and the D.E.A. and how gradually the Shan proposals became the means for exposing flaws and absurdities in the whole structure of international narcotics law and treaties.

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