printable banner

U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Press Roundtable at the International Law Enforcement Academy

William R. Brownfield
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
Bangkok, Thailand
September 15, 2011


Assistant Secretary Brownfield: Thank you very much Madame Ambassador Sawasddee krub and good afternoon to all of you. It is a pleasure to be here in the International Law Enforcement Academy of Bangkok, ILEA, that I have worked with from Washington since 1998.

Ladies and gentlemen of the media, my name is Bill Brownfield. I am the Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement. My part of the State Department is responsible for nearly $4 billion dollars per year of assistance that we provide to combat narcotics, international crime, and support law enforcement and rule of law.

This is my first visit to Thailand in nearly 18 years since 1994. A great deal has changed in Thailand over the past 18 years. One thing that has not changed is the commitment of the Thai people and the Thai government to address the threat caused by international narcotics trafficking, international crime, and the general threats caused by criminal activities in the region. The recently inaugurated new government of Thailand has stated publicly and clearly that drugs is one of its key priorities to address as the new government of Thailand. We agree with that assessment, and we are prepared to support the Thai government’s efforts to address this issue.

We believe that the solution is a combination of efforts within Thailand itself and throughout the region as part of the larger international community. We have for many decades cooperated between the Thai and United States governments in addressing this threat. We have done so with operational cooperation between the Royal Thai Police and the Drug Enforcement Administration of the United States. We have done so with the transfer of technology and equipment, support for efforts to combat money laundering, financial crime, and other elements of narcotics trafficking. But, most important of all, we have cooperated in training the law enforcement institutions of Thailand and the United States to combat the threat of narcotics.

We are today gathered in the premier International Law Enforcement Academy in the entire world; an institution that has provided training to more than 10,000 police officers from 13 different countries throughout the East Asia region. With this training, every country in the region benefits because professional police, who are connected well to the police of other countries and other regions are better able to combat the criminals and provide security to their own communities.

And with that ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for being here with us this afternoon, and I throw the floor open to your questions and your comments.

Question: Ron Corben, Voice of America. You say you support the Thai efforts in combating the drug threat. What is your stance as far as the recent war on drugs that Thailand had here before and do you see that being repeated it through the new government? Thank you.

Assistant Secretary Brownfield: I’m a great believer in the rule that you’ve learned from past experience, and that rule is not applied exclusively to Thailand. I represent a nation as well that has learned many lessons in its efforts to address and combat narcotics trafficking over the last 50 years. We are constantly adjusting, modifying, and improving our approach. Things we tried to do in 1971, we do not do today in 2011 because we have learned what worked and did not work.

I suspect that this same law and rule apply to Thailand, its law enforcement community, as well as every other law enforcement community in the world. One rule we obviously have learned is that in order to succeed in efforts against narcotics trafficking, you need the support of your community and your people for that effort. They are our allies because they are the victims when we fail. Therefore, any effort that we as the international community make to combat the threat of drugs in Thailand or any of the other 191 nations on the planet obviously will be done in a way that respects the rights, the needs, the hopes, and the aspirations of the community that we are serving.

Question: Supalak from The Nation. Would you please give us your activities in Thailand, of people you’ve met, and do you have anything to increase the cooperation on the narcotics combat within Thailand?

Assistant Secretary Brownfield: I have been…this is my third day in Thailand. I have had excellent opportunities to meet with many parts of the Royal Thai Government that are involved in addressing the narcotics threat and the narcotics danger. I have had excellent conversations with the Foreign Ministry, with the Supreme Court, with the Attorney-General Office, with the high command of Royal Thai Police, and earlier this morning I had the opportunity to visit one of the most modern state-of-the-art police training facilities in the entire world at the Tactical Training Center at Cha-am outside of Bangkok. Each of these meetings has convinced me that we are dealing as sophisticated partners with a very complicated and sophisticated threat.

We knew this before, but I will repeat it for everyone’s benefit again. The narcotics trafficking organizations are not stupid. They too are learning from their experiences. They are today far more sophisticated, far more capable than they were 30, 40, or even ten years ago. They are often better equipped, better prepared, better armed than are the law enforcement organizations that take them on. They have the benefit of not having to operate under the rule of democracy with transparency and accountability. They are allowed to spend money as they wish, where they wish, and they in fact, are extremely well equipped in trafficking the illicit products that they send to market.

It is therefore, important for all of us that we have the same skills, capabilities, equipment, and professional approach to address these organizations. And key to success in the long term, ladies and gentlemen, is cooperation among nations. The narcotics trafficking organizations are global. Our law enforcement efforts must be global as well.

Question: I'm from AFP. As you explain that using money from drugs. Tell us about the threat of the flood of the drug from Myanmar border to Thailand and mostly from ethnic labels. Are they still the threat? Are they still using the drug money to support their war or their weapons?

Assistant Secretary Brownfield: First, let me give you my larger vision of the threat in this region, and it is driven by following logic.

Today, the world’s largest heroin and opium exporting nation is named Afghanistan. The international community at large, not just the United States, but many governments in the world are dedicating a great deal of efforts and resources to control the flow of opium and heroin from Afghanistan. We will eventually succeed. (inaudible) Governments do succeed. No criminal organization has ever managed to defeat a government or a nation.

As we succeed in Afghanistan, it is inevitable ladies and gentlemen that the trafficking organizations will seek out other countries from which to produce and market their product. The most logical country that will be next on their checklist is that country where in the 1960s and the 1970s and well into the 1980s was one of the world’s largest producer of heroin and opium, and that is Burma, or Myanmar. It is therefore extremely likely that Thailand, a neighbor of Burma, will have to address the reality of increasing production and the transit of heroin, opium, and crystal methamphetamine, and other artificial drugs in the years ahead.

How will they do it? I predict to you that they will not do it the same way they did it in the 1960’s and the 1970’s because they have learned from experience. We know from our own experience that controlling borders requires a deep border strategy, where you do not simply try to control your border checkpoint, but you develop information and intelligence well into the exporting country as well as well inside your own country to follow, track, identify, and control those who are trafficking the drugs.

Who is doing it today? I leave that question for the intelligence experts. I would suggest to you that it would be a combination, partly of the same organizations that have trafficked heroin and opium from and through Burma since the 1960’s, and some new organizations or entities who are reacting to the narcotics trafficking industry of the last 10 or 15 years.

But, I repeat my prediction for all of the right reasons. Burma or Myanmar is likely to be a greater producer and a greater exporter of illicit drugs in the years ahead because of the success of the international community gradually in controlling and reducing the flow illicit drugs from Afghanistan.

Question: (VOA) If I may follow up on that point. How important do you see political reforms and changes in Burma/Myanmar in order to...and how important would they be in combating that particular trend? Thank you.

Assistant Secretary Brownfield: Obviously, I will express no opinion on the politics or the policy of the United States of America toward Burma because that is not my area of responsibility. We have an excellent special representative who is responsible for that, and I will allow him to speak for himself. He did so I believe in fact with the media here Bangkok just yesterday. In Rangoon? Thank you Madame Ambassador.

I will offer a generic observation, and that is an observation that would apply to Burma/Myanmar, or any other nation on the planet; and that is, democratic, open, transparent governments tend to have greater success in the long term in controlling narcotics trafficking, reducing the activities of criminal organizations, and providing greater security to their people and their society. They do so for one very simple reason, and that is, the people feel a greater stake in their future if they have a voice in their future, the opportunity to select their own government, and the chance to determine the policies and the directions that their government will follow. Such people also are willing to cooperate with law enforcement, with their government, in resisting, reducing, and eventually eliminating the flow of drugs from that country.

But, I repeat. I’m offering no comment on the government or the state of Burma. I have no right to offer such a comment. I may have an opinion, but it would, of course, be a personal opinion.

Question: Let me ask the same question in a different way. Will your government make any cooperation with Burma/Myanmar on the combating on the narcotics in this country?

Assistant Secretary Brownfield: That is a different question and I will answer that one because that is in my area of responsibility.

It is no secret to anyone here ladies and gentlemen that the United States Government has a sensitive relationship with the government of Burma; for what I personally regard as very proper, correct and legitimate reason. It is policy based upon principle, and it is a policy based upon the history of several decades in Burma. We have, however, consistently stated both publicly and privately that we are willing to work on specific concrete issues that are to the national interests both of Burma and of the United States of America. Drugs is one of those issues. We have a diplomatic presence in Burma. We have United States government representatives, who are stationed in and work in Burma. We are willing in certain circumstances with certain conditions that obviously would be mutually acceptable to both countries and both governments. We are willing to work to combat narcotics trafficking from Burma. I state that as clearly as I possibly can. It should be possible for two governments to cooperate on a matter of importance and the national interest without sacrificing strongly held principle positions on matters of democracy, human rights, and respect for civil and political rights.

Back to Top

Do you already have an account on one of these sites? Click the logo to sign in and create your own customized State Department page. Want to learn more? Check out our FAQ!

OpenID is a service that allows you to sign in to many different websites using a single identity. Find out more about OpenID and how to get an OpenID-enabled account.