Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

First Advisor

Dunnell, Ruth W., 1950-


This thesis confronts the American complicity in the Southeast Asian opium trade from 1945 to 1973. Beginning in 1945, American policymakers vowed to stop the diffusion of communist thought. In so doing, various American governmental agencies like the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) financially and militarily supported "anti-communist" opium growers and traffickers operating in Southeast Asia. This thesis directly connects American anti-communist Cold War policy to the expansion and internationalization of the Southeast Asian opium trade. American State Department and intelligence officials rebuilt Corsican and Sicilian mafia syndicates so as to battle the perceived communist threat in post-World War II France and Italy. Reinvigorated, Corsican and Sicilian gangsters soon began trafficking Southeast Asian opium through Europe to the United States. After the 1949 communist victory in China, American government officials feared the fall of Southeast Asia. To fight the anticipated communist aggressors, American government agents supplied "pro-democracy" Laotian warlords, Meo tribes, refugee Chinese Nationalists, and South Vietnamese bureaucrats. While mainland Southeast Asia has been at least nominally engaged in the opium trade since the eighteenth century, American financial and military aid morphed the region into a thriving opium market by the late 1960s and early 1970s.


Includes bibliographical references: pages 113-120

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