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.