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Glossary PDF Print E-mail
Written by Alfred Mccoy   
Monday, 11 January 2010 18:14

The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia


Annamite Mountains. A mountain range stretching from the Chinese border to the Central Highlands of South Vietnam. Its crestline marks the border that divides much of Vietnam from Cambodia and Laos.

Cochin China. A term concocted by French geographers to demarcate the region comprising greater Saigon and the Mekong Delta of southern Vietnam. Roughly speaking, Cochin China encompasses the lower third of Vietnam.

Golden Triangle Region. Roughly 150,000 square miles of rugged mountain terrain comprising the Kachin and Shan hills of northeastern Burma, the serpentine ridges of northern Thailand, and the highlands of northern Laos. The mountain farmers of the Golden Triangle region harvest roughly 70 percent of the world's illicit opium supply, and its processing plants produce large quantities of high-grade heroin.

Heroin. A chemical compound of morphine and acetic acid originally manufactured by European pharmaceutical companies as a pain killer and cough suppressant. During the 1920s the American medical profession decided that heroin's highly addicting properties made it unsuitable as a prescription drug and withdrew it from the market.

No. 3 heroin. A low-grade form of heroin manufactured illegally in Hong Kong (20 to 50 percent pure) and the Golden Triangle region of Southeast Asia (3 to 6 percent pure) for sale to Asian addicts. Usually granular and gray in color.

No. 4 heroin. An expensive, high-grade form of heroin (80 to 99 percent pure) used by American and European addicts. A fluffy, white powder that is highly water soluble, and thus easy to inject with a syringe.

Indochina. Originally European geographers used this term to describe all of mainland Southeast Asia, but in recent years it has come to mean only the former French colonies of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.

Kaitong. A term used by the Meo tribesmen of China and Indochina to describe the "princes" or "little kings" who ruled the Meo kingdoms of southern China prior to the nineteenth century.

Kilogram. 2.2 pounds equal 1 kilogram.

Kuomintang (KMT). The Chinese name for the Nationalist party founded shortly after World War I and currently headed by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek on the island of Taiwan.

Morphine. A granular alkaloid extracted from the sap of the opium poppy. Used medically to treat pain, coughing, or sleeplessness. Bonded with acetic acid through a complex, five-stage chemical process, morphine becomes heroin.

Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Founded in 1942 to make sure that intelligence errors like Pearl Harbor did not happen again, this clandestine U.S. agency gathered intelligence on Axis military activities and organized commando/sabotage operations behind enemy lines. OSS was disbanded at the end of World War 11, and reappeared in 1947 as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Opium. A resinous sap extracted from the bulb of the opium poppy plant (Papaver somniferum) that contains numerous alkaloids, the most important of which is morphine. When smoked or eaten, the processed opium resin induces a state of dreamlike euphoria. Taken repeatedly, opium is highly addictive.

Pathet Lao. Laotian nationalist/communist revolutionary movement founded in 1950 to battle French colonialism. Since the late 1950s the Pathet Lao has been leading an armed struggle against U.S. intervention in Laos.

Sawbwas. Hereditary feudal rulers of principalities in the Shan States of northeastern Burma.

Ton. In this book the authors use the word "ton" to mean a metric ton equal to 1,000 kilograms or 2,200 pounds.

Tonkin. Under French colonial rule the northern third of Vietnam comprising the northern highlands and the Red River Delta was administered as an autonomous colony called Tonkin.

Viet Minh. A Vietnamese nationalist/communist coalition formed during World War 11 to resist the Japanese military occupation. From 1946 to 1954 the Viet Minh led a successful struggle against French colonial rule and secured independence for the northern half of Vietnam.

Last Updated on Saturday, 01 January 2011 23:42

Our valuable member Alfred Mccoy has been with us since Sunday, 19 December 2010.

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