Myanmar authorities conduct opium poppy eradication efforts in southern Shan State in February 2012. (Photo: UNODC)

Joint anti-drug campaign yet to materialize

The Myanmar government, UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and Reunification Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) had agreed to jointly conduct a anti-drug campaign about a year ago, but the project has not taken off yet.

Sai Hla, Spokesman of the RCSS/SSA said, “Initially, we agreed to conduct the campaign jointly with anti-drug agencies in the state but later we learnt that we have not received the green signal from higher authorities.”

Sai Hla added that the agreement was signed in October 2012 and currently, only RCSS/SSA is undertaking the campaign on their own. He said that they have not received any co-operation from UNODC yet.

He elaborated that they held talks for anti-drug campaigns, forbid opium farming in areas under their control and banned sale and trafficking of opium but they were ineffective as they did not receive cooperation from UN agencies and the government.

“We could do nothing,” he said.

Sai Aung Kyaw Win, an Assistant Research Coordinator at UNODC told Mizzima, “We have just come back from a data-collection visit last month. We can start the campaign soon. We are trying our best to start it here.”

But he declined to give further details on the timeline for launching the campaign and the reasons behind the delay.

Police Major Khin Maung Latt from Taunggyi told Mizzima that the government has started destroying opium fields in Pinlaung, Hopong, Sesai and Phekhon Townships since September 4 under the government’s anti-drug scheme.

According to UNOCD surveys, Myanmar is the second largest opium producer in the world after Afghanistan and 90% of the opium fields are in Shan State.

Lt. General Yawdserk, Chaiman RCSS/SSA and Jason Eligh, Country Manager UNODC met in Yangon in June to implement the first phase of opium cultivation reduction.

One third of over 300000 opium farmers in Shan State will participate in the campaign.

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Seized illict drugs are burned at a government-organised ceremony in Yangon on June 26. (Boothee/The Myanmar Times)

RCSS calls on government to lift game on drugs

The government has so far failed to implement drug eradication programs promised during peace talks with the Shan State Army-South, the armed group’s anti-drugs team said last week.

“We have made agreements on [anti-drug] policies but there have been difficulties in implementing them,” said Lt Col Sai Harn, who heads the Anti-Narcotics Committee in the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), the political wing of the SSA-South.

He said the main problem was communication with local officials, who have refused to cooperate with the RCSS on anti-narcotics activities despite the group having an agreement with the central government.

“No matter how much we want to, we can’t do anything if the government doesn’t want to cooperate,” Lt Col Sai Harn said.

The committee released a report, Journey of RCSS Anti-Narcotic Activities, on August 26 that said cooperation on drug eradication has been one of the most important points in the peace discussions.

“Despite making agreements, cooperation on implementation could not be achieved in reality,” the report said.

The report urges the government to immediately take stronger measures to tackle drug production and trafficking rather than wait until the peace process has concluded. The RCSS said inaction will cause further suffering for the people of Shan State.

In October 2012, the government’s Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control (CCDAC), the RCSS and the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) reached a nine-point drug control agreement during a meeting in Tachileik, eastern Shan State.

The agreement covered the conducting of joint assessments, the provision of technical assistance and drug education, and the exchange of information.

The government and RCSS agreed to conduct a joint needs assessment of poppy growers in Mong Nai and Mong Pan townships to identify alternative development solutions. However, Lt Col Sai Harn said the RCSS was stopped from entering Mong Pan by Shan State government officials.

“The state government said they didn’t know about it and can’t allow us [to enter Mong Pan],” he said.

Lt Col Sai Harn said he believes the state government does not want the RCSS to enter communities and meet local villagers. “Maybe they think we will disturb their governance,” he said.

RCSS secretary Major Sai Seng Wan said the incident showed there is “no communication between the state government and CCDAC”. “It makes it difficult for us to work,” he said.

Lt Col Sai Harn said the Tatmadaw also needs to be involved in the anti-narcotic fight, particularly by exerting more control over state-backed border guard forces and militias that are allegedly involved in the trade.

“Militia groups are involved in drug trafficking. We have confirmed information. The Tatmadaw need to control them, as it is the one overseeing these militias,” he said.

In 1999, Myanmar unveiled a 15-year master plan to eliminate all drugs in Myanmar. While the country initially made progress on eradicating opium poppy fields, poppy plantation and trafficking of other drugs have increased in recent years, according to UNODC. Earlier this year the government announced it had pushed back the drug elimination deadline to 2019.

Southern Shan State, where the RCSS/SSA-South is most active, accounts for about 50 percent of poppy cultivation in Myanmar, according to UNODC.

While the issue is being given greater consideration than in previous years, Lt Col Sai Harn said the government is not working hard enough to reach its drug elimination targets.

“If they continue like this, their aim will not be achieved,” he said.

In June, the RCSS was awarded the “Golden Eagle Award” by the Thai police force and its anti-drugs organisation for co-operation with Thailand on anti-drug efforts.


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Besides gold digging, Tachileik Burmese Brigadier and Ta Ler Pyi Thu Sit are obviously dealing with drugs trade along Shan State-Lao border

Khi Maung Latt, one of the members of Pyi Thu Sit (Tachileik) hires boats to dig gold in Nam Linn River. The boats are owned by Chinese man who got the permission from Burma army and Pyi Thu Sit in Tachileik to do the operation. The charge for each boat to be paid to Khin Maung Latt is 70,000 Chinese yuan (350,000 Batt in Thai). Then he has to pay the money to Tachileik Brigade, Tachileik police and Ta Ler Pyi Thu Sit according to local sources.

The site operation is now making damages to the environment and health of local people. Local people make requests to the authorities to stop the excavation in the river, but it is not seriously taken into consideration. “We don’t know who and where to rely on to solve the problem that is happening”, local sources said.

Local people also said “Burma army and Pyi Thu Sit don’t take any responsibility for the problems; instead, they even cooperate with one another for the opium trade along Mekong region. Both of them are obviously dealing with drugs trade along Shan State-Lao border.

Reciprocally Burmese get news from Pyi Thu Sit for what they need and Pyi Thu Sit takes this opportunity to do drug business under Burma army’s cover.

One of wise native grandpa said “They are treating each other through business deals. That means they are not honest to each other. Both of them are friends only for advantages. They are not real friends. They don’t care of what could do harm to the people.

In the Tamataw, higher authorities do not carefully examine their followers who in return wrongly report to their superiors. They blindly give their orders to their followers without any inspection, said a retired staff of the government who has close contact with the Burma army.

Tai Freedom

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