KUNMING: The development of China's transport links to Southeast Asia has brought more products from the region, but it's also brought illegal drugs.
In a conference that ended Wednesday on cooperation between southwest China's Yunnan Province and northern Laos, both sides agreed to speed up logistics trade along the Kunming-Bangkok Road, the most important land artery between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Yunnan borders Southeast Asia's notorious "Golden Triangle" drug producing region bordering Myanmar and Laos. For traffickers, this means more roads and easier ways to smuggle drugs.
"Since the Kunming-Bangkok Road was completed last year, we have arrested many suspects trying to smuggle drugs to China," said Gong Huawu, deputy head of the Yunnan provincial border defense troops.
"As trade and personnel exchanges between the two countries increase, we will be facing much heavier anti-drug pressures," he said.
The "drug road" to China is not limited to the Kunming-Bangkok Road. Situated at the juncture of China, Southeast Asia and South Asia, Yunnan has 20 national ports and more than 90 roads to other countries. Highways from Kunming to Rangoon, Myanmar and Hanoi, Vietnam have been upgraded.
"To ensure smooth transportation, no new anti-drug checkpoints were set up on these highways. Their absence provides opportunities for drug-traffickers," said an anti-drug officer who declined to give his name. "The international drug-smugglers usually collect a certain amount of drugs along the border and then transport them to China by highway."
Police have increased spot checks and set up more mobile checkpoints to catch traffickers by surprise while keeping road traffic flowing.
The efforts have paid off. In the first quarter, the public security border defense brigade in Dehong Prefecture cracked down on 182 drug-trafficking cases and seized 73 kg of drugs. In the first half of this year, Xishuangbanna Border defense troops seized 140 kg of drugs, nearly double the same period of last year.
"We also need to educate villagers to prevent drug addiction and raise their awareness of fighting drug crimes," said Hang Guojian, a provincial public security department officer.
To cut off drugs at the source, China is promoting a substitute planting strategy, which encourages farmers to cultivate cash crops such as grain, rubber, tea and sugar cane in the Golden Triangle region.
From 2005 to 2008, 198 enterprises in Yunnan developed 231 substitute planting projects, said Li Jiming, deputy director of the Provincial Commerce Department. "Farmers in the region do not have to rely on planting heroin to earn their living. The strategy has reduced heroin production."