The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) works to keep Americans safe at home by countering international crime, illegal drugs, and instability abroad. INL helps countries deliver justice and fairness by strengthening their police, courts, and corrections systems. These efforts reduce the amount of crime and illegal drugs reaching U.S. shores.

Challenges: From 1962 to 2011, Burma was ruled by a military-led government that isolated the country from the rest of the world. Burma’s economy is extremely under-developed, its civilian institutions are weak, and the criminal justice system is broken. Burma’s population has suffered from decades of severe poverty, ethnic divisions and related violence, and a lack of access to government services. The country has also been severely threatened by, and vulnerable to, its growing narcotics problem which has contributed to a rise in criminal activity. Recognizing the need for large-scale reform, and in an attempt to balance its international relations, the former military-backed government made an initial overture to cede power to civilian authorities in 2010 by holding the country’s first general election in 20 years.

Goals: INL programs aim to increase Burma’s capacity to prevent and combat the cultivation, trafficking, and use of narcotics throughout the country. By working with civilian law enforcement and justice institutions, INL is striving to increase the institutional capacity of the criminal justice system to combat national and transnational crime and to promote the rule of law.

Accomplishments: With a program beginning in 2013 centered on countering the transit and domestic consumption of illicit narcotics, INL supported  an initiative to establish Burma’s first National Drug Control Policy, and continues to provide capacity building for Burma’s Drug Enforcement Division (DED) in partnership with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). INL also funds the training of drug treatment professionals and the development of creative drug awareness campaigns in Burma.  In 2014, INL began providing training opportunities for Burmese law enforcement at the International Law Enforcement Academy in Bangkok (ILEA) as well as training exchanges. In 2018, INL  and the Department of Justice Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development Assistance and Training (OPDAT), launched the Transnational Crime Program in partnership with the Union Attorney General’s Office. Through training and mentorship, the Transnational Crime Program improves Burma’s capacity to better handle narcotics trafficking, money laundering, cybercrime,  trafficking in persons, and other transnational criminal cases.  In early 2020, INL-donated equipment was used in the largest seizure in Burma to date: over 17 tons of methamphetamine tables, 500 kg of crystal methamphetamine, 292 kg of heroin, and 588 kg of opium seized during a series of interdiction operations in northern Burma. 

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future