Ministry of Home Affairs seeks bigger budget for drug crackdown
THE Ministry of Home Affairs will request a separate budget allocation to crack down on use and distribution of illicit narcotics, Deputy Home Affairs Minister Major General Aung Soe said at yesterday’s Amyotha Hluttaw session, one week after an MP from Shan State urged the government to get tough on drugs.
“The Ministry of Home Affairs will request an exclusive budget allocation so that the Myanmar Police Force can implement the anti-narcotics processes effectively,” the deputy minister said. “We will request a budget in line with the procedures.”
On July 25, Shan Nationalities League for Democracy lawmaker Sai Wan Hlaing Kham (Shan 3) submitted a proposal calling for a law enforcement blitz that would take legal action against narcotics trafficking, eliminate secluded areas where illegal substances are frequently used in groups, launch a public awareness campaign about the dangers of drug use, and open rehabilitation centres for drug addicts.
Debate over the proposal began on August 1 and continued yesterday, with 17 lawmakers registering to discuss the idea.
“I have learned that the antinarcotics team has been getting by with 1075 police officers on the AntiNarcotics Force,” said MP Daw Myat Thida Tun (NLD; Mon 5). “It is not sufficient for controlling the situation across Myanmar.”
Mon State has 10 townships but only Mawlamyine and Ye townships have branches of the Anti-Narcotics Force, she said.
“On June 30, I visited the Anti-Narcotics Force and met with the concerned officials,” she said. “What I have learned is that there is not a large-enough force and they cannot use the puffer machine [a drug detection device] and they mainly depend on manpower to detect illegal drugs at checkpoints.”
She was told by the Anti-Narcotics Force that there is no separate allocation for the fight against drugs and most of the budget goes to providing public awareness, with the help of NGOs.
MP U Myo Win (NLD; Mon 8) said there were hundreds of parents of drug victims and that the rate of criminal cases – from robbery to murder – committed to get money for drugs is on the rise.
Though the Myanmar Police Force has formed anti-narcotics teams at the township level, the teams have been unable to implement successful drug crackdowns, he said. There were only four anti-drug police officers in Ye township, where he lives, but two of them were transferred to Kayin State. The other two officers were abusing their power to make money, he alleged.
“It’s no wonder that drug dealers know the police force’s activity in advance,” he said.
U Myo Win said that in some cases, when a child from a wealthy family buys illegal stimulants, the drug dealer will call the police after selling the product, with police then arresting the buyer on the way back from the deal. When the family learns that their child is locked up for purchasing drugs, they come to the police with money, anywhere from K1 million to K7 million. The police accept the money and let the offender go, while drug dealers are allowed to continue their activities, he said.
“I do denounce such despicable actions,” U Myo Win said.
In August 2013, the Myanmar Police Force bolstered its Anti-Narcotics Force, said Maj Gen Aung Soe, the deputy minister for Home Affairs, assigning nearly 4000 police officers.
But that expansion was apparently short-lived, and currently there are fewer than 1100 officers on the AntiNarcotics Force, he said, with efforts to assign more personnel ongoing.
In 2015, there were 6414 drug cases brought against 9188 suspects, he said.
From the first of the year through July 31, 2016, a total of 4677 drug cases were brought against 7031 suspects.
A majority of the Amyotha Hluttaw approved Sai Wan Hlaing Kham’s proposal in a secret vote. There were 200 votes cast in favour, one objection and four abstentions out of 250 MPs in attendance.
– Translation by Thiri Min Htun