Burma faced renewed attacks from Western governments yesterday as Washington put the world's escalating heroin problems firmly at the door of Rangoon's military junta. Rhetoric from Secretary of State Madeleine Albright again painted Burma as the sick man of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), claiming heroin production was rising 'year after year'. 'Drug traffickers who once spent their days leading mule trains down jungle trails are now leading lights in Burma's new market economy and leading figures in its new political order,' Ms Albright said. 'Drug money has become so pervasive in Burma that it taints legitimate investment and threatens the region as a whole. 'This is a challenge we must face together - and another reminder that it will be hard to do normal business in Burma until a climate of law is restored to that country.' While Ms Albright called for tough international action, she also made clear that problems at home were driving her tough line. 'Nothing has done more to harm the health of our people and their faith in government and law than the epidemic of drug addiction.' Ms Albright mentioned anti-drug efforts in Laos and Thailand to support earlier claims that the junta was now the 'anomaly' within the expanded nine-member grouping that includes also Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam and Singapore. State Department claims of increasing production of opium poppies in Burma are hotly disputed by Rangoon, which claims it is slashing production following peace deals with drug lords. Ms Albright's comments yesterday found support from unusual quarters in the closing sessions of the ASEAN ministerial meeting. Vietnam - whose communist Government is increasingly close to Rangoon - called for greater co-operation with ASEAN and the wider region. 'This is an extremely difficult and complicated task,' said Foreign Minister Nguyen Manh Cam. Vietnam is still reeling from a major drug trafficking scandal involving border guards and police, as traffickers find new routes to carry high-grade heroin over mountain trails from the Golden Triangle. Western diplomats said they had been surprised by the strength of Ms Albright's vitriol towards Burma. 'We're starting to worry it's all going a little too far,' one said. 'Some are starting to worry about a backlash within ASEAN while others say she's ignoring problems in other states.'