This is the message from a report released October 8 by KWAT entitled “Silent Offensive” in which they call for the elimination of illegal drugs in Kachin State.
“The future of the Kachin people is at the stake. We need urgent action to tackle the drug problem before it’s too late,” said Shirley Seng in a press release.
Opium, heroin and methamphetamines are flooding from government controlled areas Chipwi and Waingmaw into Kachin communities, worsening existing problems of drug abuse, particularly among youth, according to the report. It is estimated that about one third of students in Myikyina and Bhamo universities are injecting drugs users.
The report reveals how the Myanmar Army is allowing its local militia to grow opium and produce heroin and other drugs in exchange for fighting against the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). As Myanmar troops and their allies have progressively seized control of KIA areas, drug production has been increasing.
The main opium areas in Kachin State are now in Chipwi and Waingmaw townships, under the control of the Myanmar Army and its local Border Guard Forces led by Zahkung Ting Ying, an Amyotha Hluttaw MP, the report says.
In Northern Shan State, opium is booming in areas under the Myanmar Army and thirteen government militia forces, four of whose leaders are MPs in the Amyotha Hluttaw, the report says.
Sai Aik Paung, Minister for Forestry and Mining in Shan State does not deny that the Northern Shan State is seeing a boom in opium. He said they are trying to do their best but should put in more effort.
He stressed that action should be taken against drug producers and sellers. And because most of the drug users are youth, there is a need for a rehabilitation centre for them.
Given the apparent lack of political will to deal with the drug problem, women are taking the lead among local communities in setting up their own programmes to combat drugs.
KWAT criticizes the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and other international donors for not focusing on the role of the war, and particularly the anti-insurgency policies of the government, in fuelling the drug problem in Myanmar.
KWAT is a non-profit organisation working on behalf of Kachin women.