Solving Myanmar’s drug trade means involving militias in the peace process
Myanmar Times - To unravel Myanmar's drug trade and end the decades-long civil war, Tatmadaw-backed militias will need to be involved in the dialogue, experts say.
Tatmadaw-backed militias have long been permitted to indulge freely in the narcotics trade in return for their help fighting ethnic armed groups. These militias have thus far been excluded from ceasefire talks, casting doubt over how lingering problems in Myanmar’s border areas, including the drug trade, will be settled.
The nationwide ceasefire accord – signed between the government and eight ethnic armed groups in October last year – mentions “consultation” on the eradication of illicit drugs. But experts say the agreement is likely to have little impact on poppy cultivation.
“First of all, most opium farmers grow poppies due to poverty, and their needs have not been addressed yet. Second, a lot of opium and heroin production is now in areas controlled by Tatmadaw-backed militias, who are not included in the peace process,” said Tom Kramer, a researcher with the Drugs and Democracy program of the Amsterdam-based Transnational Institute.
Most militias operate in Shan State, where about 90 percent of the country’s raw opium is produced. Poppy is also grown, to a lesser degree, in Kachin, Kayah and Chin states.
But the militias are not the only ones involved in the drug trade.
“After decades of military rule, war and ethnic conflict, few of the parties fighting in Shan State, including the Myanmar army, can claim to have clean hands when it comes to the drug trade,” said Mr Kramer from the TNI.
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