War on Drugs in Shan State

(Excerpts from RCSS/SSA report)

SHAN received a copy of the compilation of meeting minutes from Restoration Council of Shan State / Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) while visiting Loi Taileng, the movement’s headquarters, 15-19 January 2013.

The following extracts appear to reflect the on the ground reality of the ongoing War on Drugs – Editor

Date         - 6 November 2012
Time         - 13:00-16:00
Place       - Taunggyi
Topic        - Activities against drugs in Shan State
Chair        - U Ye Naing

Shan State police chief Win Tun reports plan to destroy poppy fields during the month.

A poppy field in Shan State (Photo: SHAN)

Brig-Gen Pawng Kherh (RCSS chief delegate)

There is a lack of coordination between us and the government’s drug enforcement. This had led to a clash between government forces and SSA troops at one of the sites of the rehabilitation centers set up by the RCSS for addicts.

We want to help and cooperate with the government in the campaign against drugs. We will leave to the government to administer appropriate punishments to those guilty.

Hkun Thurein, Joint General Secretary, PaO National Liberation Organization (PNLO)

We are ready to cooperate with the government. Destruction of poppy fields has been done for years, all to no avail. Destruction alone cannot eliminate the problem.

We need to do crop substitution programs as well as find foreign markets for the produce. What has been done is just like throwing a bait only where the fish jumps. The problem is related to politics. Now that we have a people’s government, there is hope that it will be dealt with successfully. Right now, the cost of living—sending children to school and health care etc— is so high, the only way out is growing poppies.

70% of Taung Lay Lon (prison near Taunggyi) inmates are PaO, it has sort of become a prison for PaOs. This is a really sad situation. In the rural areas, there are no one who hasn’t seen opium or yaba, Destruction of poppy fields started long before we were born. But the number of fields has not dropped but risen. There is a reason for this. The resistance movement is afraid the people (whose fields are destroyed) will go over to the government’s side. It is also the same with the government.

But now that we are talking face to face with each other, we will be able to resolve the problem. As for what is being planned (to destroy the fields), I think it is only a stopgap measure. Nevertheless, we will cooperate.

PaO People’s Militia Force (PMF)

If we want to make progress, please don’t put the figure at 5 acres when actually only 1 acre of poppies has been destroyed. Don’t say you’ve gone 10 miles when actually you went 1 mile. If we keep on doing this, 2014 (deadline) will come, but the poppies will still be there. We used to blame the Communist Party of Burma (CPB) for poppy cultivation. The CPB has long gone, but why are the poppy fields still around?

N.B.     The deadline has now moved to 2019.

Health department official

There are 2 major treatment centers in Shan State: Loilem and (unclear). And 2 minor treatment centers: in Kalaw and Monghsu.

Police officer # 1

In Taunggyi, there are over 1,000 police officers. If we are going on a crop destruction trip, we have to find our own vehicles and buy fuel for them. We have weed-whackers, but there is not enough fuel for them to do the job. So if we destroy all the poppy fields in one place, the other places are left intact. But if we destroy one field in each place, the people will not be greatly affected. We need to listen to the people’s voices.

Police officer # 2

In some places, the plants have already dried up. In other places, they have already been scraped. We also often receive wrong maps from headquarters. Next time, please give us the correct ones.

Police chief Win Tun

We have asked for a battalion from the national police chief. But many of them are still in Arakan. I don’t know when they will be back. We will launch the campaign this November simultaneously. We will move to the poppy areas by Tolajis (Chinese made farm tractors used for traveling) and set up bases there to destroy the fields.

Police officer # 3

If we set up bases in villages, villagers often come to us with money and liquor. As a result, some of our men get drunk, and cannot be made to move in the morning.


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