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From Grundrisse:  A precondition of production based on capital is therefore the production of an ever-widening sphere of circulation the tendency to create the world market is directly given in the concept of capital itself. Every limit appears as a barrier to be overcomethe production of relative surplus value requires the production of new consumption. Firstly: quantitative expansion of existing consumption; secondly: creating new needs by propagating existing ones in a wide circle; thirdly: production of new needs and discovery and creation of new use values. Capital drives beyond national prejudices as much as beyond nature worship, as well as all traditional, confined, complacent, encrusted satisfactions of present needs, and reproduction of old ways of life. It is destructive towards all of this, and constantly revolutionizes it, tearing down the entire barrier, which hems in the development of the forces of production, the expansion of needs, the all sided development of production, and the exploitation and exchange of natural and mental forces. P. 407.

 

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Crystal Meth: Stimulant that speeds up body’s system that comes as pill or powder. Available in

prescription as Desoxyn® to treat obesity and ADHD. Crystal meth resembles glass fragments and is an illegally altered version of the prescription drug that is cooked with over-the-counter drugs in meth labs.   United States Drug Enforcement Administration website

 

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Heroin Addict (Yunnan): The addicts, the consumers of the drugs, and their families were without doubt the most pitiful victims of the opium business next to the impoverished farmers who grew the poppies. Although most of the narcotics from the Golden Triangle were destined for foreign markets, it is often forgotten that drug abuse was and still is- enormous social problem locally. In 1960s, in some opium villages in the Golden Triangle, the addiction rate was already as high as 70 to 80 percent of all male inhabitants. p. 239  Burma in Revolt/ Opium and Insurgency since 1948, Bertil Lintner 1999.

 

CIA airstrip: Without air transport for their opium, the Hmong faced an economic crisis.  There was simply no form of air transport available in northern Laos except the CIA's charter airline, Air America. Thus, according to several sources, Air America began flying opium from mountain villages north and east of the Plain of Jars to General Vang Pao's HQ at Long Tieng. page 304 . -The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia Alfred W. McCoy 1972.

 

Hong Kong Police office

 

Hong Kong Police HQ

 

KMT (Kuomintang): The KMT acted as a buffer and unofficial "border police force" for Thailand, and it collected intelligence for Taiwan, the US and Thailand-in that order. In return, the Thai authorities turned a blind eye to the KMT's smuggling activities along the border.  Taiwan’s links with Zhang Qifu's Loi Maw KKY were maintained through Zhang Suquan, Alias Sao Hpalang, a former KMT officers of Manchurian origin who had come to Shan State from Laos in the 1960s. The CIA used as many of the KMT's contacts as possible as their own intelligence assets, and recruited mercenaries to fight their " Secret War" in Laos. p.238   Burma in Revolt/ Opium and Insurgency since 1948, Bertil Lintner 1999.

 

Khun Sa: Since the early 1970s, Khun Sa's powerful Shan United Army (SUA) had maintained a camp for its opium caravans at the Thai village of Ban Hin Taek, just a few miles from the KMT base at Mae Salong. But, in the late 70s, as his troops won nearly half of the Shan states' opium harvest, Khun Sa began speaking to the press with a mix of national rhetoric and warlord bravado.  In June 1977 interview with the Bangkok World, Khun Sa described himself as "King of the Golden Triangle"... P.418 The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia Alfred W. McCoy 1972

 

The hole at Khun Sa's camp.

 

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Lo Hsing Han: The KKY units were often hired by the merchants to convoy the drugs. Many KKY commanders were also merchants themselves. If Lo Hsing Han or Zhang Qifu (Khun Sa), for instance, conducted a convoy down to the Thai border, they would be carrying their own opium as well as drugs belonging to other merchants, most of whom did not have their own private armies. A fair number of them were Panthay Muslim, who remained quietly in the background despite all the turmoil, trading in opium through proxies. p.236    Burma in Revolt/ Opium and Insurgency since 1948, Bertil Lintner 1999.

 

Morphine lab: Morphine- Heroin is a chemically bonded synthesis of acetic anhydride, a common industrial acid, and morphine, a natural organic pain killer extracted from the opium poppy. Morphine is the key ingredient. Its unique pharmaceutical properties are what make heroin so potent a painkiller and such a dangerously addicting narcotic. The acidic bond simply fortifies the morphine, making it at least ten times more powerful than ordinary medical morphine and strengthening its addictive characteristics. Although almost every hospital in the world uses some form of morphine as a post-operative pain killer, modern medicine knows little more about its mysterious soothing properties than did the ancients who discovered opium. . The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia Alfred W. McCoy 1972.

 

No. 4 Heroin.

 

Omdurman: At Omdurman in 1898 the whole new European arsenal was tested-gunboats, automatic weapons, repeater rifles, and dum dum bullets-against a numerically superior and very determined enemy.  One of the most cheerful depicters of was, Winston Churchill later winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, was the war correspondent of The Morning Post. He has described the battle in My Early Life (1930), the first volume of his autobiography. “ Nothing like the battle of Omdurman will ever be seen again,” Churchill writes. “ It was the last link in the long chain of those spectacular conflicts whose vivid and majestic splendor has done so much to invest war with glamour.” Thanks to steamboats and a newly laid railway line, even out in the desert, Europeans were well supplied with provisions of every kind, Churchill observed- I attacked the bully beef and cool drink with concentrated attention. Everyone was in the highest spirits and the best of tempers. It was like a race luncheon before the Derby.  “Is there really going to be a battle?” I asked.“In an hour or two,” replied the General.

 

The Dead Do Not Die: "Exterminate All the Brutes" and Terra Nullius. By Sven Lindqvist.

 

Plain of Jars (Laos): In the minds of geopolitical strategists in the CIA's special Operations division, potential infiltration routes stretched from the Shan hills of Northeastern Burma through the rugged Laotian mountains, southward into the Central Highlands of South Vietnam. According to one CIA operative, Lieutenant Colonel Lucien Conein , agency personnel were sent to Laos in 1959 to supervise eight Green Beret teams then training Hmong guerrillas on the plain of Jars.  P.305 . -The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia Alfred W. McCoy 1972.

 

Shan Hills: Poppy cultivation was legal, but nevertheless restricted to the wild and mountainous areas east of the Salween River-the headhunting Wa hills and in Kokang. Although smuggling and unauthorized trade did occur, the business was tightly controlled by local and British authorities under the 1910 Opium Act and the 1938 Opium Rules.   Officially, opium was a state monopoly, and licenses were allotted by the colonial authorities to select vendors at a fixed fee. At each shop, a Resident Excise Office was stationed to supervise the sales and see to the disposal of surplus opium every evening. But even so, an early British government report stated that opium revenues " are growing steadily but do not yet cover expenditure."  Significantly, the main pre-war anthropological study of the Shans has only one single reference to opium: " No religious Shan takes opium, so it is not openly used as medicine, but native doctors use it occasionally with herbs." p.62 Burma in Revolt, Bertil Lintner.

 

Shan State Army: The rebels who operate in the poppy growing area collected tax from the farmers. The distribution of poppy fields in Shan State explains why some of the groups were more dependent on opium then others. Jimmy Yang soon drifted away from the SSA and allied himself with Gen. Li's 3rd KMT, which enable him to continue the trade from his native Kokang. The SNA controlled the opium-rich hills north of Kengtung and conducted their own convoys both to the Thai border and across the Mekong to Laos. The most politically motivated of the groups, the SSA, was on the other hand never involved to any appreciable extent in the opium business. No more then one thousand viss, or roughly 1,5 tons, was grown in the SSA area south of the Hsenwi-Lashio road and north of opium produced in Shan State at that time. The SSA nevertheless levied a 10-percent opium tax on the growers, another 10 percent on the buyers, and additional tax for the traders and caravans passing through their territory. Opium tax paid for the rebel's arms purchase in Thailand or Laos.

 

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Shan State, Burma: film still from Opium/ the white powder opera, Adrian Cowell.

 

Invisible man: The men representing civilization out in the colonies were "invisible" not only in the sense that their guns killed at a distance, but also in that no one at home really knew what they were doing.  Cut off from their native country by enormous distances, poor communications and impenetrable jungles, they exercised imperial power without any control from home.  Exterminate all the Brutes-Sven Lindqvist.

 

Huey Bell Helicopter: Air America was known to be flying Hmong opium as late as 1971. Hmong village leaders in the area west of the Plain of Jars, for example, claimed that their1970 and 1971 opium harvests were bought up by Vang Pao's officers and flown to Long Tieng on Air America UH-1H helicopters.  This opium was probably destined for heroin Laboratories in Long Tieng or Vientiane and, ultimately, for GI addicts in Vietnam. P.304. -The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia Alfred W. McCoy 1972.

 

UWSA Liaison Office in Tachilek, Burma: With the collapse of the CPB and the failure to form new anti-government alliances, about two dozen ethnic armed groups, both large and small, entered into similar ceasefire agreements with the tatmadaw. Among them was the KIA, which was the only group that insisted on having a signed, and not only a verbal, agreement with central authorities. That agreement was broken when the tatmadaw launched an all-out offensive against the KIA in June 2011, only months after Thein Sein had announced his desire for peace. And what happened to the UWSA? The group and its leaders became rich on the deal with the tatmadaw as “business opportunities” in their border areas equaled drug trafficking. The UWSA and its allies became Asia’s main producers of opium and heroin, although in more recent years they have turned to manufacturing methamphetamines and other synthetic drugs. Minorities, Money and Getting It Wrong in Myanmar. Bertil Lintner.

 

Vasco da Gama: Europe's Age of Discovery coincided with the start of Asia's modern opium trade. Only six years after Columbus crossed the Atlantic, Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama rounded the tip of Africa and became the first European sea captain to reach India. Like the Dutch and British who followed, the Portuguese found that the spices, textile, and porcelains of Asia commanded a high price in Europe, but few European goods found a market in Asia. To sustain commerce without exhausting their supply of gold and silver coin, Portuguese captain had to finance their business by becoming brokers in the intra-Asian trade. Fortifying their small coastal enclaves against attack, the Portuguese sortied out into the sea-lanes from Red sea to the South China Sea, confiscating native cargos, plundering rival ports, and expropriating the local trade.  p. 79 The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia Alfred W. McCoy 1972.

 

Europe's age of discovery (after Broodthaers): The arrival of Dutch, English, Danish and French ships in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries heralded a new global order; their trade concessions and Easy India Companies were deliberate attempt to destroy the indigenous sea trade and form monopolies over the highly coveted goods of the East, including pepper, spices, tea and silks, as well as opium, which was portable and durable and soon became a substitute for silver coins or gold. Page 21-22.  Narcotic Culture, A History of Drugs in China by Frank Dikötter, Lars Laamann, and Zhou Xun.

 

Red Pill (ya ba): Overall, a greater diversity of tablets is reportedly available on the market, sold under various “brands” (WY, 88, 7, 8, 1), colours (red, orange, pink, blue, grey), and distinctive characteristics (slightly longer, shorter, thinner, thicker tablets, presence or absence of a tiny mark on the tablet etc.). In addition, a majority of respondents confirmed that crystal methamphetamine, also known as “ice”, had become more easily available, especially in Yangon and Myeik, albeit at significantly higher prices than methamphetamine tablets (as much as 60,000 to 80,000 MMK per gram in Yangon). Methamphetamine use in Myanmar, Thailand and Southern China: assessing practices, reducing harms, Drug Policy Briefing, Transnational institute, January 2019.

 

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Apocalypse now (film still): Beginning in the 1950s, farmers in eastern Burma’s Shan and Kachin states encountered disruptions that heightened their insecurity and disrupted their livelihood, tipping the scale in favor of opium specialization. Warfare and appropriation by the state and armed groups led many farmers in eastern Burma’s Shan and Kachin state to take flight, often to remote uplands, and to grow opium. At the same time, disruptions in Yunnan produced an inflow of refugees into eastern Burma. During this period, eastern Burma experienced a dramatic rise in opium production.

 

John Buchanan. Run to the Hills: Mainland Southeast Asia’s Integration into Global Opium Markets (1945-1972), Paper presented at Yale University’s Agrarian Studies Colloquium. April 12, 2019.  In Heart of Darkness, Harlequin describes how the natives used to approach their idol, Kurtz, crawling on all fours. Marlow reacts violently. He starts back and shouts that he does not want to know anything about the ceremonies used when approaching Mr. Kurt. The thought of the crawling chieftains seems to him even more unbearable then seeing the heads of murdered people drying on the poles around Kurtz’s house.  The Dead Do Not Die: "Exterminate All the Brutes" and Terra Nullius.  By Sven Lindqvist.

 

Black tar heroin: Although eclipsed by the media glare on cocaine and crack, global heroin production and U.S. consumption rose steadily during the decade. World opium production tripled from an estimated 1,600 tons in 1982 to 4,700 tons in 1990. The U.S. addict population stabilized at about 500,000 in the early 1980s, but there were signs of rising heroin use. Between 1983 and 1986, the number of heroin related deaths doubled. Moreover, a new Mexican " black tar" heroin appeared in the mid-1980s with a high purity and low price that made it competitive with crack in the Western United States.  p.465 The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia Alfred W. McCoy 1972.

 

Black tar opium/ Chinese Opium Although the Chinese frustrated Portuguese hopes by growing their own tobacco, the tobacco pipe itself, which had been introduced by the Spanish, turned out to be the key that unlocked the gates to the Celestial Kingdom's riches. Indian opium mixed with tobacco and smoked through a pipe was pleasing to the Chinese palate. This fad first became popular among the overseas Chinese of Southeast Asia, and Dutch merchants witnessed Chinese smoking an opium- tobacco mixture in Indonesia as early as 1617. By the early seventeenth century the Dutch, who had preempted the Portuguese position in Southeast Asia, were reportedly pushing opium on Taiwan and making inroads into the nearby Chinese coast. The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia Alfred W. McCoy 1972.

 

British troops at Omdurman: “Nothing like the battle of Omdurman will ever be seen again,” Churchill writes. “ It was the last link in the long chain of those spectacular conflicts whose vivid and majestic splendor has done so much to invest war with glamour.”  Thanks to steamboats and a newly laid railway line, even out in the desert, Europeans were well supplied with provisions of every kind, Churchill observed- I attacked the bully beef and cool drink with concentrated attention. Everyone was in the highest spirits and the best of tempers. It was like a race luncheon before the Derby.  “Is there really going to be a battle?” I asked. “In an hour or two,” replied the General.

The Dead Do Not Die: "Exterminate All the Brutes" and Terra Nullius. By Sven Lindqvist.

 

Cooked Opium: This final stage produces the fine white powder prized by American addicts, and requires considerable skill on the part of an underworld chemist. The heroin is placed in a large flask and dissolved in alcohol. As ether and hydrochloric acid are added to the solution, tiny white flakes begin to form. After the flakes are filtered out under pressure and dried through a special process, the end result is a white powder, 80 to 99 percent pure, known as "no. 4 heroin." In the hands of a careless chemist the volatile ether gas may ignite and produce a violent explosion that could level the clandestine laboratory. -. -The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia Alfred W. McCoy 1972.

 

Dead Americans: Three Americans killed in action with the KMT in Burma 1953.  Burma in Revolt: Opium and insurgency since 1948, Bertil Lintner.

 

Effects of Heroin

-Highly addictive.

-Initial surge of euphoria or “rush,” followed by a twilight state of sleep and wakefulness

-Physical symptoms of use include: drowsiness, respiratory depression, constricted pupils, nausea, a warm flushing of the skin, dry mouth, and heavy extremities.

-Overdose symptoms: slow and shallow breathing, blue lips and fingernails, clammy skin, convulsions, coma, and possible death.  

United States Drug Enforcement Administration website.

 

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First Street (Hong Kong): First Street in Hong Kong was an area where heroin was widely available.

 

1 gram of heroin: About 25 percent of the addict population used a higher grade of No.3 known popularly as White dragon Pearl. It was about 50 percent pure, and gained its characteristic chalky-white colour when cut with a form of barbiturate powder and smoked them in an ordinary tobacco cigarette.  p.272 The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia Alfred W. McCoy 1972.

 

Heroin Arrest (Hong Kong): The couriers were perhaps the most visible links in the narcotics chain since they were often caught and exposed by the media. A courier could be anyone who was hired by the syndicates to carry drugs from one place to another. The couriers were often conveniently-but incorrectly- referred to by media as well as law enforcement agencies as " drug traffickers"-perhaps to deflect attention from the syndicates, which seemed to be above the law.    Burma in Revolt/ Opium and Insurgency since 1948, Bertil Lintner 1999

 

Double U-O Globe heroin brand: International narcotics syndicates inevitably became involved by supplying chemists to heroin refineries along the Thai-Burmese border, and by taking care of regional and international distribution of the drugs.  The syndicates operated independently, but since most of them were dominated by ethnic Chinese often connected with the so-called Secret Societies, or Triads, in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau, Links with the KMT and some of the KKY forces were easily established. These crime gangs remain one of the main obstacles to a solution to the conflict in Shan State since it is their interest to perpetuate the state of anarchy that makes the drug trade possible. Given the vast amount of money they possess, their power and influence-as well as their ability to manipulate local rebel leaders as well as government officials and drug enforcement agencies- is considerable. Perhaps significantly, international law enforcement agencies seldom turn their attention in their direction, but tend to concentrate their efforts on the armed bands inside Shan State, as if they had contacts in Hong Kong, New York, and Amsterdam. P.239 Burma in Revolt/ Opium and Insurgency since 1948, Bertil Lintner 1999.

 

Heroin buy (Hong Kong street): With estimated 100.000 narcotics addicts out of a total population of 4 million in 1970, Hong Kong had the highest percentage of drug users everywhere in the world.  About 85 percent of all inmates in the colony's prisons were heroin addicts, and 47 percent of all those sentenced were narcotics offenders. - In 1972 the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration estimated Hong Kong's addict population at 30,000 opium smokers and 120,000 heroin users, who consumed about 35 tons of opium annually, a remarkable amount that approached the level of total U.S. opiate consumption. P.271 The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia Alfred W. McCoy 1972.

 

Heroin Laboratory: Green Gang members had been the most powerful racketeers in Shanghai, and during their first few years in Hong Kong it seemed as though they would dominate the colony's organized crime as well. The Green Gang opened up huge dance halls, organized large-scale prostitution and committed a series of spectacular robberies. Most important, their master chemists began producing high-grade heroin, which became increasingly popular as the colonial government's anti-opium campaign got underway. Before the Shanghai gangsters immigrated to the colony, there had been no heroin production and only a moderate level of consumption. The Green Gang's early production was aimed at exiles who had acquired the habit before coming to Hong Kong, but gradually its market expanded to include local opium smokers who switched to heroin because of the colonial government's opium suppression campaign. P.269 The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia Alfred W. McCoy 1972.

 

No. 3 Heroin: After World War Two, Burma along with areas of northern Thailand and northern Laos began a transformation into a massive opium-producing platform. The levels of opium production slowly rose from pre-war levels so that by the early 1970s, the region had become the major supplier. The US government responded to this metamorphosis by tagging the area as the Golden Triangle.

 

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Morphine Blocks: The great majority of the Hong Kong seizures report that Thailand is the origin of the Opium and opium derivatives. This obviously, is not the actual origin of the opium but merely the outlet country. The Hong Kong imports probably originate mainly in Burma, with smaller amounts from Thailand, Laos, and Yunnan. Page 30, the involvement of the communist China in the Illicit Opium Trade, Declassified CIA report, 20, August, 1956.

 

Ice

 

Meth Pill: Methamphetamine tablets are the most popular form of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) in the region, in particular in Myanmar. However, crystal methamphetamine, commonly known as “ice”, is strengthening its position on the market. While methamphetamine tablets are mostly smoked, crystal methamphetamine has a greater potential to be injected and is also a more potent substance. It therefore carries specific health risks that need to be addressed through the lens of public health, rather than criminal justice.  Methamphetamine use in Myanmar, Thailand and Southern China: assessing practices, reducing harms, Drug Policy Briefing, Transnational institute, January 2019.

 

Meth pill melting on aluminum foil.

 

Militia base outside Tachilek: The Burmese government was supposed to enforce the law, which officially prohibited drug trafficking.  But lacking the power and the political will to do so, government officials were usually content with receiving "tea money" from private merchants and various KKY commanders. Some of the return cargo brought back by the KKY, especially fancy furniture, was given to civilian officials as well as military officers to lessen their possible irritation with the trade.    Burma in Revolt/ Opium and Insurgency since 1948, Bertil Lintner 1999.

 

Morphine aka Dreamer, Emsel, First Line, God’s Drug, Hows, MS, Mister Blue, Morpho, Unkie.

 

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Olive Yang: Sister of the Kokang prince. She ran the KoKang KKY from the early 1950s to mid-1960s; a dynamic and forceful character, very much admired for her toughness and ability. While all princes and their families came under attack and pressure from the Burma Army, Burmese politicians, and the media, Olive Yang managed to work with the army top brass in Northern Shan State, and made a fortune in the opium-gold trade, obtaining liquor, meat, and other concessions. Her affairs and marriages to popular songstresses, starlets, and even an established film star, Wa Wa Win Shwe, entertained the reading public.   P.230, The Shan of Burma/ Memoirs of a Shan Exile, Chao Tzang Yawnghwe.

 

Preparing opium for smoking: Scholarship on opium in mainland Southeast Asia (and other areas) often views opium as a narcotic that is both illicit and economically valuable. But this perspective fails to consider that farmers in the opium production zones of mainland Southeast Asia value opium for other reasons: It is a medicine (widely used to treat symptoms of dysentery), a currency used by peasants and shopkeepers, and a cash crop. John Buchanan. Run to the Hills: Mainland Southeast Asia’s Integration into Global Opium Markets (1945-1972),  Paper presented at Yale University’s Agrarian Studies Colloquium . April 12, 2019.

 

Opium convoy: Western officials continued, rather absurdly, to blame the Golden Triangle drug trade on the ethnic rebels in the are, not making any distinction between them and groups such as the KMT and the SUA-and ignoring the most crucial issues: official complicity and the pivotal role of the Triads.  While some of the ethnic rebels collected tax on opium passing through their respective areas, not a single insurgent group in the jungles of Burma had the international contacts that were needed to distribute tons of heroin worldwide, to launder millions of dollars in banks in Singapore and the Cayman Islands, and to hire couriers in Amsterdam, London, and Lagos.  P.319  Burma in Revolt, Bertil Lintner.

 

Opium Farmer: The farmer who grew the poppies earned a pittance for months of labourious work. They were mostly hill tribes such as Kachin, Lahu, Wa, Lisu, Palaung and Akha, but there were also poor, ethnic Chinese peasants from Kokang and other areas in the hills east of Kutkai and Hsenwi in Northern Shan State. Despite living at Subsistence level, they had to pay "taxes" to various rebel groups claiming their areas, and bribes to various government officials who were supposed to enforce the law. By this time, an estimate 40 percent of all poppy fields in Shan State were located in Kokang and Hsenwi states, 15 percent in the Wa hills, nearly 15 percent in Mong Yai state, 10 percent in Kengtung, and the remaining 20 percent in Mong Pan, Mong Hsu, Mong Nawng, Mong Nai, and Hsi-Hseng in south and central Shan State.  Burma in Revolt: Opium and insurgency since 1948, Bertil Lintner.

 

Opium pipe circa 1600:  Opium was available in China via Arab merchants from the eight century onwards. Taken orally as a medicine, however, opium left a bitter taste. When smoked it release a sweet, pleasurable aroma, which rapidly became known for relieving boredom (jiemen) and anxiety ( xinjiao). To be smoked more easily, raw opium was mixed with other substances. Engelbert Kaempfer, a Westphalian physician working for the Dutch East India Company, recorded that the Javanese soaked their tobacco in water that made the head " spin violently". The opium required for this preparation quickly became the most precious traded commodity in Batavia.  The first traders to introduce opium for smoking to China were probably the Dutch between 1624 and 1600, first to their trade posts in Taiwan, and from there to Fujian. During the tumultuous decades of Ming-Qing transition, opium (madak) smoking was confined to the Taiwan Strait, and not noted by the Qing authorities until Xiamen was captured in 1683. p. 32 Narcotic Culture, A History of Drugs in China by Frank Dikötter, Lars Laamann, and Zhou Xun.

 

Opium pipe and jar.

 

Opium Sap: The first opium imported on behalf of the London Eat India Company (founded 1600) reached England at the very beginning of the seventeenth century, on Dutch and Portuguese vessels. The Dutch were also the first to establish a monopoly over the East Asian opium trade by controlling the opium grown in the Hugli region of Bengal. Bengali opium was destined for shipment to the Dutch possession in Ceylon, the Malacca Straits and in the Malay Archipelago. Opium began to figure prominently in the Dutch Batavia trade from 1640 onwards. Once established as a trade item and as a form of payment, it followed Dutch seafarers in their search for spices: from Bengal to Borneo and from Malacca to Cochin, Dutch trade popularized its use. p.22 Narcotic Culture, A History of Drugs in China by Frank Dikötter, Lars Laamann, and Zhou Xun.

 

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Opium smoker: “Opium is a great medicine for those who know how to use it. In the past, the older generation used a lot of opium; they had a long life and succeeded in their work and business. The young generation has switched from using opium t o heroin. Now drug users have become thieves and do not live a long life because they don’t know the dangers of using drugs.” 76 year old Kachin man, Bouncing Back - Relapse in the Golden Triangle, transnational institute (tni), Amsterdam, June 2014.

 

Poppy: Beginning with its plant origins (Papaver somniferum), the images trace the different forms that opium takes as it travels along a commodity supply chain culminating in its most concentrated form of heroin.

 

Raw Opium: Raw Opium Appendix III Notes on the film, Opium Warlords page.  249, The Shan of Burma/ Memoirs of a Shan Exile, Chao Tzang Yawnghwe

 

Opium market (Shan tate). In 1988 a World Bank consultant, astounded by the virtual disappearance of many rice that year for GNP annually changed hands on the black market.  These figures are no surprise to the few outsiders who have traveled in the rural Burma or the long-suffering Burmese people for whom trading on the black market has long been a national way of life.  Explained one Thai Intelligent officer with long experience of cross border trading: " Many people, when they hear figures quoted in millions, are very skeptical. They look at the vegetables, cheroots and cattle, which are all most people see trickling across the border, and think the trade can't be very large. What they forget is the high value of goods like jade, teak, rubies and opium, which pass through largely unnoticed.  Page 98, Burma/ Insurgency and the politics of ethnicity, Martin Smith.

 

Second Opium War: In 1833 the East India Company's monopoly of trade in China was abolished, opening up the market to ambitious entrepreneurs like William Jardine and James Matheson who had little patience with the trading restrictions imposed by the Qing.  These were not confined to opium: large quantities of saltpeter and salt were also illegally imported (the import of both products continued to be strictly forbidden even during the republican period), p.42  / the sheer amount of illegally imported opium was blamed by some officials for reducing the empire's silver holdings. Historians have also underlined that massive opium imports produced a substantial trade deficit and severe economic dislocation, leading to the ' Opium War' and the forced integration of China into a world order dominated by imperialist powers. p.43 Narcotic Culture, A History of Drugs in China by Frank Dikötter, Lars Laamann, and Zhou Xun.

 

Setting sun in Shan State: Opium farmers are not an easy subject to study. Archival materials for the period – in particular, before the early 1970s – are thin: farmers rarely kept records, and groups and individuals involved in the illegal collection and trafficking of opium did not make their financial statements or annual reports available to outsiders. Organizations tasked with collecting data on farmers and opium production (whether licit or illicit) had a limited ability to do so. This situation improved a bit in the early 1970s, when Richard Nixon's administration launched its War on Drugs and allocated resources for monitoring and suppressing drug crops. Meanwhile, the difficulty of accessing opium-producing regions deterred independent researchers from data collection.  Often governments barred researchers from accessing these regions, and the few independent researchers that reached them often experienced harassment by state authorities and armed groups.  John Buchanan. Run to the Hills: Mainland Southeast Asia’s Integration into Global Opium Markets (1945-1972), Paper presented at Yale University’s Agrarian Studies Colloquium. April 12, 2019.

 

Smuggling Route: Opium Transport Route. The painting depicts the trail that opium travels from Shan State to Thailand.

 

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Gong Loi Mu, Wa State

 

White Powder/ Charlie: The Main flow of No. 4 heroin to U.S. troops in South Vietnam is through Laos and Thailand. In addition, large quantities of opium and morphine base are smuggled into Hong Kong, where it is both consumed locally and refined into No.4 heroin for the U.S. market. The World Heroin Problem, report of special study mission, 92d Congress 1st Session May 1971.

 

Meth Pills (WY brand): The use of amphetamine type stimulants in Myanmar, Thailand and Southern China has continued to increase over the past few years, despite the intensification of police efforts and the growing number of seizures and related arrests. Using methamphetamine has become more popular, especially among youths but also among those working in difficult environments and conditions. Page 29. Methamphetamine use in Myanmar, Thailand and Southern China: assessing practices, reducing harms, Drug Policy Briefing, Transnational institute, January 2019.

 

In Sawangwongse Yawnghwe’s painterly practice, historical and political analyses of Shan State (Burma) are intertwined with personal and familial histories. This work commissioned for DAS contextualises the Shan State heroin-opium complex within opium’s long and invisible history of impacting the drawing of borders across vast geographies. Opium traverses not only national borders, but blurs the line between the legal and the illegal.

 

"The Opium Parallax departs from conventional narratives of the opium trade. Drawing on historical sources the work traces the shifting opium supply chain over time. On side 1 of the Opium Parallax, there is a reference to use and value referencing Karl Marx’s Capital.  In the parallax I wanted to see if one can look at the opium phenomenon through Marx’s dialectic materialist lens: drawing comparison between the rise of opium trade and the rise of industrial capitalism."  

 

- Sawangwongse Yawnghwe

 

Opium's Empire: Amitav Ghosh on the Ibis Trilogy