Govt sees economic development as key to drugs war
REGIONAL development and economic opportunities in ethnic areas is the latest strategy devised by Maj Gen Aung Thu, deputy minister of Home Affairs, to put an end to the nation’s narcotics menace.
The plan was revealed in answer to a question by MP U Tun Tun Oo at the Amyotha Hluttaw session on September 12 about efforts to halt the spread of cheap drugs in the country.
“We’ll continue to prevent and crack down on drugs in ethnic regions while keeping in mind the reconciliation and peace process,” said Maj Gen Aung Thu.
He added there is a need to review the strengths and weaknesses of drug prevention teams at the regional and local levels.
An anti-drug reporting centre, ordered by President U Win Myint, opened on June 26 to fight the country’s drug problem by rewarding informants with tax exemptions.
Ten-member special anti-drug task forces that have been formed in regions and states, including Nay Pyi Taw, have cracked down on illicit drugs in cooperation with government departments and civil society groups, said the deputy minister.
From 2016 through July 2018, more than 4.36 million kilograms of opium, 202,084kgs of heroin, more than 231 million amphetamine tablets, and other illicit drugs were seized in more than 24,000 cases. The value of the narcotics amounted to one percent of Myanmar’s 2017 GDP.
Myanmar Police, working with local military, have raided 193 drug factories since 1991, a small number considering that Myanmar is the world’s second-biggest opium producer.
“We plan 10 task forces, including an international relations team and controlled chemicals supervisory team,” he said.
Drug eradication measures and drug abuse awareness campaigns have been conducted across the nation, he said.
The government is combating narcotics with an objective of securing the livelihoods of opium farmers and indigenous people living in mountainous regions, and rehabilitating drug users. The drug eradication programme is being carried out in four phases, each taking five years, with the first phase to be completed next year.
A man walks past drugs being burned by law enforcement authorities in Hlaing Tharyar township in Yangon in June.