Govt pushed to upgrade anti-narcotics agenda
As parliament reconvened yesterday, a Shan State MP proposed a nationwide drug elimination crusade as part of the “100-day” plan, including a law-enforcement crackdown.
A SHAN State parliamentarian wants the government to include an antinarcotics drive in its so-called “100day” plans if such an initiative is not already part of the National League for Democracy’s vision for its early days in office.
Amyotha Hluttaw lawmaker U Sai Wan Hlaing Kham, who represents Shan State constituency No 3 for the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, submitted the proposal yesterday, the first day of the upper chamber’s second regular session.
His proposal envisions a law-enforcement blitz “to arrest and take legal action against drug smuggling in many villages and wards in northern Shan State; to eliminate secluded areas where drugs are used in groups; to gather momentum for providing public awareness about the dangers of drug use in wards and villages; and to open rehabilitation centres for drug addicts in areas in need”.
The proposal was seconded by U Sai Tun Aung, a fellow SNLD lawmaker in the Amyotha Hluttaw representing Shan State’s No 2 constituency.
In submitting his motion, U Sai Wan Hlaing Kham said illicit narcotics presented a national challenge, with awareness low on the dangers of drug use.
He cited perceptions among some users of “yaba” or other methamphetamines that the stimulant tablets offer a source of energy and enhanced productivity, without realising the risks of addiction and other negative health impacts.
The lawmaker said a major drug bust in May in Lashio township could serve as blueprint for a wider crackdown.
“This proposal is based on the measures of township police and authorities trying their best to arrest a [drug-dealing] gang that was attacking people with swords throughout Lashio, one of the towns in my constituency,” U Sai Wan Hlaing Kahm said.
“Township authorities are exposing Lashio’s well-known secluded areas, where drugs are used in groups, and taking legal action. Based on these activities, it would be suitable if such activities can be done across the country at the township level, then district and state levels,” he said.
Drug-smuggling plagues many villages and wards in northern Shan State, the SNLD lawmaker said. In many cases, crackdowns by police or civil society vigilante groups have only had a temporary chilling effect on the trade, with dealers returning to the streets once enforcement lapses.
The Speaker of the Amyotha Hluttaw polled the chamber yesterday to determine whether the proposal would be discussed and a majority voted in favour. The Speaker then announced that MPs interested in speaking on the matter are to register by today.
While the NLD has instructed each ministry to initiate “100-day” plans for their first 100 days in power, information about what those initiatives are has only slowly come to light, with many of the plans still unknown more than two weeks after the administration hit its 100-day mark on July 7.
The government has recommitted to a review of the 1993 Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Law begun under the previous administration. Critics say the legislation is badly outdated, and at a workshop last month in Nay Pyi Taw, international anti-narcotics experts urged any reform to more effectively target traffickers and organised crime syndicates, or what some termed the “head of the snake”.
“Look at the arrests taking place [in Myanmar],” Jeremy Douglas, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) regional representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said on June 27. “It’s the truck drivers, the couriers, the relatively easy [targets].”
“That’s all fine but it’s disproportionate. Myanmar needs to concentrate on those running the businesses … those making all the money,” he added.
In its manifesto released ahead of last year’s election, the NLD was sparse on details about how it intends to tackle the scourge of illicit narcotics in Myanmar, the world’s second-largest producer of opium.
“We will cooperate with civil society organisations on awareness-raising programs for young people on the dangers of drugs, and we will carry out more effective treatment and rehabilitation programs,” it said.
A police officer guards a cache of seized drugs at a ceremony marking International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking on June 26.