Burmese Authorities Warn Civilians’ Anti-Drug Initiatives

By KLN

Wednesday, Sept 24, 2014

A Tanai-based Burmese Army commander and township police chief on last Friday asked for the release of two drug dealers, U Shwe Ba and U Mong Sieng, who were arrested and detained early this month by Kachin drug elimination committee members at Gin Sa Ra block in Tanai City, located in western Kachin State.

Kachin drug elimination committee (Pat Jasan Komiti in Kachin) is comprised of members of Kachin Independence Organization, Baptists, Catholics and other church members and ordinary citizens from both KIO’s and Burmese government’s controlled territories. Almost every township in Kachin and northern Shan State has its own drug elimination committee to fight against drug problems.

Burmese army blocked motor road that leads to KIA’s western division headquarters, Awng Lawt, after a Burmese Army commander and Tanai township police chief asked KIO’s drug elimination members to hand over two drug dealers, said a local resident. He said the two dealers were later handed over to police officer Myint Nwe on September 17 by KIO officers.

On Sept 18, local drug elimination committee members from Mana village in Hpakant Township seized 28 Yaba pills (small pink pills with a combination of methamphetamine and caffeine), a bottle full of heroin and black tar heroin from three drug dealers.

Mawwan drug elimination committee members seized 3 bottles of heroin and 10 syringes from two drug dealers, Maran La and Mong Htai, at Mawwan block in Hpakant Township on Sept 16. Committee members burned seized drugs in front of Hpakant Mawwan residents on the same day.

Local Hpakant residents also seized hundreds of Yaba pills from a drug dealer, named Ko Ko Aung (aka) Mummy Aung, during a similar community-initiated operation witnessed by regional Burmese army commander, officials from 66th Light Infantry Division (LID) and Hpakant police officers on Sept 5. While Burmese army commander and local residents were still arguing on civilians’ involvement in drug raids, another man who was known to have close connection with Hpakant police disguised as a journalist took the pills from Ko Ko Aung and hid inside his own bag.

Hpakant residents who are members of local drug elimination committee were later summoned to meet with Burmese army’s tactical commander and officials from Hpakant Township administrative office and judicial branch on Sept 8. Members of local drug elimination committee were warned by Burmese authorities not to take the law into their own hands, not to burn seized drugs by themselves and to inform local police about drug dealers and drug-related activities.

Local residents said they had handed evidences and information about several drug dealers to the police in the past but they still see those people doing business as usual. They said police were often involved in drug-related activities and some policemen involved in those activities were even apprehended by local youths and handed over to local police office. Local residents often complain Burmese government authorities for negligence of drug usages and local police are often accused of aiding drug dealers.

A Hpakant resident who took part in the Mawwan drug raid said to the Burmese army commander that they can’t find any evidence of drugs whenever they arrive at dealers’ place after informing police though they were sure that drugs had been dealing at that particular place for long time. He also said, “Even regular drug users pass urine test at police hands, that’s why we can’t trust them”.

Kachin leaders and majority of Kachin public regard heroin and drugs as public enemy number one. Several churches and community organizations in Kachin and northern Shan State have initiated drug eradication campaigns and rehabilitation programs since the beginning of 2014.