Drugs and bullets in Myanmar

08 February 2017
In the media

As more people in Kachin fall victim to drug abuse, Christian group Pat Jasan is taking matters into its own hands.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 2015 South East Asia Opium Survey (PDF), heroin production has stayed at stable high levels since 2012, and across Kachin state a drug epidemic has developed. Though the Burmese government has not conducted an official drugs survey, the Transnational Institute has stated that "Myanmar is the world's second-largest producer of opium after Afghanistan".

Tom Kramer is a political scientist and researcher at the Transnational Institute who has worked for more than 15 years in Myanmar and its border regions. He has found that the military's main concern is security and conflict management rather than drug production.

"Heroin is cheap and widely available and this affects the poor, young and students the worst," he says.

"There is very little being done to keep drugs off the market in Kachin state, and few services available to people who are using drugs. There is a very strong sentiment in Kachin state that the army is using the drugs as a weapon of war against them," Kramer explains.

"This may or may not be the case, but the sentiment is there and this why you have the Pat Jasan movement trying to take matters into their own hands. However, by targeting the opium farmers and drug users, you really are targeting the lower end of the drugs trade. I understand where the Pat Jasan movement is coming from, but I believe their methods to be harsh. Everybody, even drug users, has human rights."

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