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Thinking Globally, Acting Locally: How hydro-electric development of the Mekong River facilitates transnational criminals in the production and trafficking of ATS/methamphetamine and other drugs

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University of Kansas Lawrence United States

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The literature on drug trafficking and the broader illicit drugs industry in Southeast SE Asia grows more robust with each passing year, however many aspects continue to remain under-theorizedespecially regarding the support and patronage that traffickers receive from disadvantaged ethnic groups that dot the border regions between Chinas Yunnan province, Burma, Lao PDR, and Thailand.2 One need look no further than official reports from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the United States State Department to see that seizures of manufactured drugs continue to rise and that ATSmethamphetamine trafficking and abuse are gradually increasing relative to heroin in SE Asia. These changes have been attributed to a range of factors that include unrestricted availability of heroin from Afghanistan and ATS precursor chemicals from China to the institutional incapacity of weak states and corruption of their governmental representatives.3 However, few sources have discussed how local communities contribute to illicit trade or elucidated the reasons why many communities hold resentment for the Chinese and Burmese governments. In the following paper, Chinas development of hydro-electric power along its portion of the Mekong River4 and its attempts to develop hydro-electricity in Burma are used to illustrate how border communities become disaffected by economic development in the Greater Mekong Sub-region GMS and how this in turn affects the drug trade. It is no secret that traffickers utilize the river to move ATSmethamphetamine and ATS-precursor chemicals out of China and ATS and opiate products out of Burmas Shan State.

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