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Published: June 21st 2017
Geo: 20.4816, 99.9383
I have to admit, I've heard the term "golden triangle' used nearly everyplace I've been to; There's one in Australia, in India, in Kuala Lumpur, and even in the States, probably many more. This Southeast Asian Golden Triangle is defined by the borders of three countries where two rivers converge. Myanmar (Burma), Laos, and Thailand can all be seen at the same time when you are standing at the confluence of the Ruak and Mekong rivers. What makes this triangle infamous are the drugs that pass through it. Most of the heroin circulating our world comes from Myanmar and has passed through this triangle.* The opium is grown by farmers up in Myanmar, brought by donkey caravan to refineries along the Thailand-Burma border, turned into heroine, transported across the border in Thailand, down to Bangkok and then to everywhere.
I was surprised to learn when I was booking this day trip that I could even go into Myanmar! Myanmar has been all over the news (as I'm sure you guys all know) because of the devastation caused by last months Cyclone Nargis. And right along with news of the cyclone was news on how all these ships and planes
with aid from all over the world were stuck outside the borders awaiting permission to get to the people who need it. So now it's been a little over a month since the disaster, there are something like 130,000 fatalities reported, and my travel agent says I can go in. I'll believe it when I see it, but it was true. Ok, so the truth is that foreigners are allowed in through the northern border, but only if they relinquish their passport at the border, get a temporary paper Myanmar passport, and leave the country before nightfall. Which is what I did (I got my passport back when I left the country.) Because I didn't have much time in Myanmar I didn't get to explore more than the border city, which mostly consisted of shopping stalls filled with black market goods that Thai's cross the border to buy cheaply. (My guide who crossed the border with me actually had a shopping list of stuff to get for her friends and family...Prada bag, DVDs, CDs, batteries, etc.) So I wish I could say I got to see the place, but really all I got to see was the same scene I
can see at home on Canal Street in Manhattan, lots of cheap knock-offs for sale.
In Myanmar they drive on the other side of the road from Thailand, and their language and alphabet are different. I learned a couple words while I was there and hey now I've been in a country ruled by a military dictatorship. That's a first. I've recently learned a little more about Myanmar's history, here's what I think I know now. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, as head of her party, was overwhelmingly democratically elected in parliamentary elections. The military junta, however, canceled the 1990 election results, refused to step down, has refused to let her party assume power and has kept her under house arrest. In Myanmar there is a basic struggle for democratic values against a military junta that refuses to recognize basic human rights.
*Myanmar is second only to Afghanistan for the export of heroin.
Info from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Triangle_(Southeast_Asia)
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