MI6 drug offensive seen as gimmick

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 September, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 September, 1997, 12:00am

Will Burmese Goldfingers soon be repeating similar warnings to the one delivered in the film: 'You are a clever and resourceful man, Mr Bond. Perhaps too clever. Twice our paths have crossed. Let's leave it at that.' Probably not. Nor do security experts expect suave British agents to attempt to cross into the Golden Triangle with exotically equipped cars anytime soon.

'No one's going into the Shan state with guns blazing. James Bond was actually a lousy agent - the first job of the intelligence services is to discreetly gather information,' said one informed observer.

Yet Burma's pivotal role in the global drug trade and the military regime's cohabitation with drug traffickers is now well known.

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook himself said last week during his Southeast Asian tour: 'The failure of the regime in Burma to address this issue, indeed their apparent willingness to abet and profit from the drugs trade, deserves the strongest condemnation.' So what job is left that is not already covered by the US Drug Enforcement Administration and the other Western officials in the area? Mike Goodman, director of the British addicts' help organisation Release, said this was merely another gimmick rather than a considered strategy.

'Now we've got George Smiley moving in on the act' - a reference to the spy chief who appears in the novels of John Le Carre. 'I don't think we should be under any illusion this will make an enormous impact,' he said.

MI6's international expertise - even with its little more than 2,000 employees worldwide - may be useful in exposing major drug routes.

But its real use may not be in taking direct action, but in gathering information that can be used to put pressure on governments whose links to the global narcotics trade go to the highest levels.

'There's really no question of them leaving a trail of dead bodies behind them: MI6 are far too subtle for that,' said Richard Dickens, an intelligence adviser to the UN International Drug Control Programme in Bangkok.