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.

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - SWAN YE HTUT swanye­htut@mm­times.com – Translation by Thiri Min Htun

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.

Photo: Zarni Phyo

A po­lice of­fi­cer guards a cache of seized drugs at a cer­e­mony mark­ing In­ter­na­tional Day against Drug Abuse and Il­licit Traf­fick­ing on June 26.

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