DRCNet Response to the
Drug Enforcement Administration
The original goal of Operation Tiger Trap was to reduce the heroin supply to the United States by disrupting heroin trafficking operations in Thailand through arrests and prosecution of key Shan United Army (SUA) functionaries.
The 13 principal defendants in Operation Tiger Trap include some of the most persistent and highest-level heroin traffickers operating out of Thailand. They are all subjects of U.S. indictments in the Eastern District of New York (EDNY). All 13 have on the order of 20 years of experience in the heroin trade. Five of those arrested are wanted for their direct involvement in multi-hundred kilogram shipments of heroin to the United States in the years since 1987, and are the subject of a sealed June 1994 EDNY indictment. Four are fugitives from previous EDNY indictments. Another SUA suspect is wanted in connection with an indictment in the Middle District of Pennsylvania that involves the importation of 1,000 kgs of heroin.
Background: On November 27, 1994, the Royal Thai Police and the Thai Army went into action. Ultimately, 13 senior SUA traffickers were arrested, and all were pursued for extradition/expulsion to the United States. Tiger Trap was initiated and managed by the DEA with support from the Thai Government, and represents the DEA's most ambitious project to date in Thailand. It was the first of a series of steps toward a more aggressive program addressing heroin trafficking in Thailand and Burma.
The defendants are a mixture of three distinct categories: those immediately eligible for expulsion (illegal aliens in Thailand); those that possess fraudulent identification; and authentic Thai citizens.
Significant Impact: Operation Tiger Trap has had an important and significant effect on U.S. efforts against the Southeast Asian heroin traffic. It has had a crippling effect on the SUA both in terms of lost financial support and disruption of its command and control network. This, added to recent military setbacks in clashes with the Burmese Army, has had a profound impact on trafficking patterns in the area. Thai/Chinese and Thai/Burmese drug kingpins, formerly acting with impunity from within the borders of Thailand and Burma, are now faced with the real possibility of arrest and prosecution for trafficking crimes directed at the United States.
Two important drug trafficking figures in Burma and Thailand, subjects of U.S. Federal Court indictments in the Eastern District of New York, recently surrendered in lieu of consideration for their cooperation. It is felt that their surrender was prompted by the success of Operation Tiger Trap and the fear of arrest and extradition.
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