Traffickers expanding in mainland

AN INTERNATIONAL drug-trafficking syndicates appears to be changing smuggling routes out of Yunnan province by setting up new sea and air transshipment centres in China.

The new routes were replacing traditional land transport, the deputy director of Yunnan's Security Bureau, a Mr Yang, told the LUSA news agency in Macau yesterday.

He said drug trafficking had been ''rampant'' in Yunnan since 1988 and acknowledged that in recent years the province had become a transshipment centre for multinational syndicates employing mainlanders for the smuggling of drugs from the ''Golden Triangle'' in Thailand, Laos and Burma to cities such as Shanghai, Xiamen and Guangzhou.

According to Mr Yang, police in Yunnan arrested 300 drug traffickers and seized 210 kilograms of drugs last year. In the first 10 months of this year, police arrested 200 traffickers and seized more than 230 kg of illicit drugs, Mr Yang revealed, adding 46 drug traffickers had been executed this year.

He said syndicates from Hong Kong, Macau and overseas were hiring mainlanders as couriers to smuggle drugs to transshipment centres and final destinations.

Mr Yang also said mainland traffickers had armed themselves with guns and hand grenades, ''firing at police when confronted''.

New drug transshipment centres had been set up in Shanghai, Xiamen and Guangzhou for distribution to Europe, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau by sea and air, he said.

Meanwhile, Wei Daizheng, deputy director of the Guangzhou Narcotics Control Commission, admitted yesterday Guangzhou had become a transshipment centre for illicit drug smuggling to Hong Kong and Macau.

''Drug trafficking and drug abuse cases have been on the increase since the early 1980s,'' he said.

Mr Wei revealed last year 908 drug-trafficking cases had been recorded, and more than 1,300 drug traffickers and 4,000 drug addicts had been arrested, and 200 kg of drugs, mainly heroin, had been seized. In the first nine months of this year, 113 kg of illicit drugs were seized, he said.

Mr Wei also said ''80 to 90 per cent'' of all drug addicts in Guangzhou were youngsters, adding police in the city had to cope with traffickers ''armed with guns and equipped with advanced transportation and communication facilities''.