Font Size: a A A

Seeing drugs: The American drug war, Thailand, and Burma, 1970--1975 (Myanmar)

Posted on:2004-03-21Degree:Ph.DType:Dissertation
University:Kent State UniversityCandidate:Weimer, DanielFull Text:PDF
This dissertation examines American drug policy in Thailand and Burma between 1970 and 1975. Southeast Asia became a focus of American drug policy in 1970 when U.S. soldiers in Vietnam began using heroin. The GI heroin “epidemic” among U.S. servicemen—in which an estimated 15 percent of U.S. personnel in Vietnam used heroin—helped prompt President Richard Nixon to declare the first war on drugs, with Southeast Asia a prime target since people in the region annually produced and trafficked tons of illicit opium. The United States concentrated its efforts on Burma because the nation was the world's largest producer of illicit opium. Thailand became a point of focus because the nation acted as a major transit point for illegal heroin. Thailand also possessed a population of indigenous “hill tribes” that produced illicit opium and the United States as well as the Royal Thai Government wished to end the illegal poppy farming.; This study asks: Through which cultural lenses did the United States view the problem of narcotics trafficking in Thailand and Burma? Through which cultural constructions did the United States identify the problem and prescribe a solution? This dissertation explores how American policymakers viewed the Southeast Asian drug trade and its impact upon addiction within the United States by examining the discourse surrounding the GI heroin epidemic, particularly the drugs-as-disease metaphor employed by U.S. policymakers, which upheld the idea of drug addiction as a foreign-born problem. This study also analyzes modernization theory and counterinsurgency theory, which were two other cultural constructions employed by American policymakers to assess narcotics production and trafficking in Thailand and Burma. Counterinsurgency theory and modernization theory allowed American policymakers to observe, categorize, assess, and create or “picture” human societies, namely those groups associated with narcotics trafficking in Thailand and Burma. In many cases the picture created by counterinsurgency theory and modernization theory entailed a portrait of countries lacking modernity. For U.S. officials, bringing modernity to the governments of Thailand and Burma and to the highland peoples who grew illicit opium would help alleviate drug trafficking.
Keywords/Search Tags:Thailand, Burma, Drug, Illicit opium, United states, Trafficking
Related items