155. Memorandum From the Director of the White House Office of Drug Abuse (Bourne) to President Carter1


  • Recommendations from my trip to Burma, Thailand and Laos

I have delayed sending this summary and report to you because of the volume of other materials I have sent you recently. However, the steps I am recommending here that we take in the “Golden Triangle” countries as a result of my trip there may be critical to the success of our worldwide heroin control program for the next four years.

The most important observation overall was the sincere new commitment by the leaders of Burma and Thailand to deal with opium trafficking and the clear resulting reduction in production levels.

BURMA—In part because of my previous visits to Burma I was extremely well received, and met with all the top leaders in the government except President Ne Win who was in Switzerland. They also took [Page 563] me by helicopter all over the country including a stop in Mitkyena where no American had been allowed to go for 15 years. In summary my findings included:

(a) There is clearly a total commitment from the top to deal with the narcotics problem. This is in part due to their mushrooming domestic addiction problem, but mainly because of the strong support for their efforts from the international community. Dealing successfully militarily with the traffickers would also result in neutralizing the Shan independence movement.

(b) Although all the opium caravans are being successfully identified they do have a serious transportation problem in moving enough troops quickly to attack the caravans guarded by 300–500 heavily armed guards.

(c) The Burmese are very concerned about the continuing sanctuary given to the trafficking groups, especially the 3rd and 5th Chinese Irregular Force under General Li, and the Shan United Army under Chang Chi Fu by Thailand and it is a continuing block to better Thai/Burmese coordination in the border region.

(d) The Burmese are now very willing to expand cooperation beyond the narcotics area.

(e) Burmese/U.S. relations have improved spectacularly during the three years I have been going there. Much of the credit should go to Ambassador David Osborne.


1. We should strongly reinforce the Burmese commitment. A letter to President Ne Win (draft attached)2 similar to what you did with the Mexicans would help a great deal.

2. We should proceed to provide them fixed wing aircraft probably four this year, so they can better interdict the opium caravans.

3. We should push the Thais and Burmese for closer cooperation especially in the border area.

4. We will provide them a consultant for six months to help them deal with their own addiction problem.

5. We should look for other areas of cooperation outside narcotics.

THAILAND—Again I was very well received and had extensive discussions with Prime Minister Thanin, his wife who is Danish and “strong man” General Kriangsak.

(a) As in Burma, there is now total commitment at the top in Thailand to deal with the narcotics problem. Thanin demonstrated this [Page 564] to me repeatedly even though others in the government may be less enthusiastic.

(b) Corruption is still a serious problem despite Thanin’s efforts to deal with it.

(c) The opium crop substitution program seems now to be on track, with coffee becoming a successful alternative crop for the tribes people.

(d) Thai law enforcement agencies have increased dramatically the amount of heroin seized.

(e) The Thai will not deny, for political reasons, sanctuary to the Burmese insurgent groups who are involved in trafficking. They are, however, willing to engage in low key cooperation with the Burmese in the border area [less than 1 line not declassified].

(f) Our biggest problem in Thailand is poor leadership in our own embassy.3

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1. A supportive letter from you to Prime Minister Thanin, would strongly encourage him, and strengthen his efforts domestically.4

2. I will try to get a federation of U.S. coffee companies to support the crop substitution program.

3. We will encourage European nations with heroin problems to share with us the responsibility for keeping the pressure on the Thai government.

4. Keep pushing the Thais for close collaboration with the Burmese.

5. Reassess the leadership in our embassy in Bangkok. I am advising Dick Holbrooke on this issue.

LAOS—A brief visit with relations strained between our mission in Vientiane, and the new Laotian government. I established a good relationship with the Minister of Health, Dr. Khamblieng Pholsena. In summary:

(a) Health problems remain very severe. Help in dealing with unexploded ordnance, artificial limbs and orthopedic surgeons are needed. They also have a severe problem with malaria.

(b) There is no government wide policy for dealing with opium cultivation. There is clearly an element that wishes to get into commercial cultivation. Resolution of this issue will clearly take several months.

(c) The Laotian refugee problem remains severe. Camps I visited in Thailand have tens of thousands of Laotians who desperately need to be resettled.


1. Continue an active dialogue with the Laotians around the health and human needs issue.

2. Try to meet some of their health needs within congressional constraints.

3. We must wait to allow the opium policy to evolve, making it clear that we oppose their entry into the commercial market.

4. More attention needs to be paid to resettling the Laotian refugees.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Country Chron File, Box 5, Burma. Secret. Carter wrote at the top of the page, “Have letter texts cleared by Warren—no delay. J.” Beneath this notation, an unknown hand wrote, “Done. PM. 6/15.”
  2. Not attached. Printed as Document 156.
  3. Carter highlighted point (f).
  4. See footnote 1, Document 156.