890.114 Narcotics/44

The British Embassy to the Department of State 20



His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom have received the views of the Government of the United States, embodied in the Department’s aide-mémoire No. 890.114 Narcotics/12 of September 21st, 1943 on the policy to be adopted by the United Nations in the matter of the control of opium in territories in the Far East freed from Japanese occupation.

[Page 1080]

2. Before the receipt of the Department’s communication, His Majesty’s Government had already been considering this question and had reached the same conclusions as the United States Government, namely that opium smoking should be prohibited and prepared opium monopolies should not be established in British territories to be freed from Japanese occupation. In accordance with their decision, His Majesty’s Government propose to issue on November 10th, 1943 a statement in the following terms:

“By the Hague Convention of 1912 His Majesty’s Government undertook to take measures for the gradual and effective suppression of opium smoking. The Geneva Agreement of 1925 contained provisions supplementary to and designed to facilitate the execution of the obligations assumed under the Hague Convention, and in particular provided that the importation, sale and distribution of opium and the making of prepared opium for sale shall be a monopoly of the Government. Under the system of Government monopoly, supplies of prepared opium were restricted to habitual smokers and as a result of the administrative measures and general improvement brought about in social conditions during the twenty years preceding the Japanese aggression, much progress had been made towards the suppression of opium smoking.

His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom have now decided to adopt the policy of total prohibition of opium smoking in British and British protected territories in the Far East which are now in enemy occupation, and in accordance with this policy prepared opium monopolies formerly in operation in these territories will not be re-established on their reoccupation. The success of the enforcement of the prohibition will depend on the steps taken to limit and control production in other countries. His Majesty’s Government will consult with the governments of the other countries concerned with a view to securing their effective cooperation in the solution of this problem.”

A similar statement will, it is understood, be issued at the same time by the Netherlands Government.21

3. His Majesty’s Government believe that the policy to be announced in the above statement involving as it does the imposition of a total prohibition of opium smoking and the closing of government monopolies, together with other relevant legislation enacted and brought into operation many years ago, will bring about a situation in the British colonial territories concerned in which the importation, manufacture, sale, possession or use of all forms of opium or its derivatives or of all other habit-forming drugs covered by various international conventions will be restricted under the most stringent regulations to medicinal and scientific purposes. As regards Burma, the effect will not immediately be so sweeping, owing to the habit (which does not exist in British colonial territories now in Japanese occupation) of eating unprepared opium for semi-medical purposes [Page 1081] in many unhealthy parts of the country. This constitutes a different (and much more difficult) aspect of the problem of the suppression of the use of opium from that of the suppression of opium smoking and of the traffic in prepared opium to which the Department’s aide-mémoire principally refers and which is also the subject of the intended declaration by His Majesty’s Government. The Government of Burma have, however, already adopted the policy of ultimate suppression of all opium consumption, and as part of their plans for a reconstruction policy in Burma are examining the best means of effecting the suppression in the shortest possible time. An essential prerequisite for successful abolition is of course the effective control over opium in neighbouring countries, to which a reference is made in the intended statement.

4. In these circumstances, His Majesty’s Government believe that the intended statement will fully meet the wishes of the United States Government as stated in the fourteenth paragraph of the Department’s aide-mémoire under reference. In bringing the terms of the statement to the attention of the United States Government, His Majesty’s Government have in mind the possibility that the United States Government may wish to issue some simultaneous statement of their own which they presume would merely take note with satisfaction of the decision announced by His Majesty’s Government and the Netherlands Government. His Majesty’s Government are, however, most anxious that no such statement by the United States Government should be made before the issue of their own statement, as any premature disclosure of their intended policy might have unfortunate results.

5. With regard to the more detailed points in the Department’s aide-mémoire, His Majesty’s Government are very willing to consider, in consultation with the United States Government, the application of the policy outlined in their intended statement in the areas occupied by the Japanese where United States troops are operating, and will communicate with them again on these points as soon as possible.

  1. Acknowledged by the Secretary of State in a note of November 22, 1943, not printed. The note indicated readiness of the American Government to consult with other governments on measures for the limitation and control of the production of opium and suppression of the illict traffic in opium (890.114 Narcotics/50).
  2. See footnote 19a, p. 1077.