To Hopeland and Back: The 23rd trip

Day Four. Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Moderation is remedy
Excess is malady.
Burmese proverb

I know I have found my masters today. At least they are saying the very things that I have been dreaming of saying but never could find the proper words. Just listen to this:

Law Hsinghan (Photo: New York Times)
Opium is a gift from heaven for farmers in conflict:

·         Unlike other crops, they need only 100 days to grow and harvest it
·         The yield is of high value
·         It can be stored for years
·         It is easy to carry on one’s own person
·         Its market is right where you are
·         It’s not just a cash crop, it’s also a social crop, a war crop, and a political crop, you name it
·         Its problem is too complicated to use just a bamboo stick to slash it down

Khun Sa
Others then take part to support his claims. Here’s my own pennyworth:

·         With regards to the drug problem in our country, we need to look at the big picture, from all different angles. We must see the forest, not just individual trees.

·         It’s not just about crime and crime bosses. Law Hsinghan was caught in 1973, but the drug business didn’t stop. Khun Sa surrendered in 1996, but the drug industry didn’t take notice. Indeed, as Adrian Cowell once told me:

Druglords may come
And druglords may go
But drugs go on forever

·         Because when it comes to drugs, hardly anybody can claim innocence. A Palaung leader was
Adrian Cowell (Photo: afiercegreenfire
once quoted by Bangkok Post as saying , “Everybody who has a gun is involved.” It’s not just one side, but both, that have been using drugs as a weapon for war.

·         Now that the peace process has begun, it’s high time we took this opportunity and dealt with the problem.

·         The Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) Paragraph 25: Tasks to be implemented during the interim period, is, in a way, about cooperation in doing away with the drug problem

·         Whatever we do about it, we should not forget this:

In making war, we look for faults
But in making peace, we look for common ground

I notice later that some of the participants are not convinced. “In other countries, there is no war like us,” says one. “But they still have drug problems.”

We also touch upon successive governments’ manipulation of the drug policy in their fight against armed resistance movements. Such as, when Khun Sa was still fighting on the side of the government, he was allowed to have outside investors set up refineries in his domain. The government’s anti-drug campaigns simply left him untouched. But once he started calling for Shan independence and such, the investors abandoned him and went over to the Wa side that was fighting against him. Because they knew they would be strictly left alone by the government if they were with the Wa. And today after several tensions with the Wa, the government supported People’s Militia Forces (PMFs) are getting a freehand in the production and trade of drugs.

You may say it is quite a lively discussion.

The afternoon session is about UNGASS 2016. However, due to a scheduled meeting in Rangoon tomorrow, I leave early, after asking Tom to share the feedback with me afterward.

A few developments nevertheless should be mentioned:

·         Drug use has been on the increase especially among youth
·         Many of the US states have legalized (or about to legalize) marijuana

Several packets of cash are handed over to me before my departure as reimbursement for my expenses. With what I already have in my luggage, it comes to about a million kyat. When I inform this to a friend who is bidding goodluck to me, he grins and quips: “Now you’re one of the country’s proud millions of millionaires.”

(I didn’t know it then. But on 11 November, the Global New Light of Myanmar reported MPF Brigadier-General Kyaw Win, Commander of the Drug Enforcement Division and Joint Secretary of CCDAC, saying Myanmar drug control policy has “traditionally focused on supply reduction and law enforcement, which has led to limited results”.

In addition, the Government of Myanmar has signaled that the coming national drug policy will address cross-cutting issues including public health, human rights and the needs of women and children, and it will also contribute to sustainable development.

Also the Government of Myanmar and UNODC will partner to undertake a national drug use survey in 2017 to better understand the nature and extent of drug use and associated health risks and harms.

The peace process, however, isn’t mentioned. But somehow I thought it’s something we should not jump to conclusions, just yet.)


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