Joint anti-drug campaign yet to materialize

The Myanmar government, UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and Reunification Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) had agreed to jointly conduct a anti-drug campaign about a year ago, but the project has not taken off yet.

Sai Hla, Spokesman of the RCSS/SSA said, “Initially, we agreed to conduct the campaign jointly with anti-drug agencies in the state but later we learnt that we have not received the green signal from higher authorities.”

Sai Hla added that the agreement was signed in October 2012 and currently, only RCSS/SSA is undertaking the campaign on their own. He said that they have not received any co-operation from UNODC yet.

He elaborated that they held talks for anti-drug campaigns, forbid opium farming in areas under their control and banned sale and trafficking of opium but they were ineffective as they did not receive cooperation from UN agencies and the government.

“We could do nothing,” he said.

Sai Aung Kyaw Win, an Assistant Research Coordinator at UNODC told Mizzima, “We have just come back from a data-collection visit last month. We can start the campaign soon. We are trying our best to start it here.”

But he declined to give further details on the timeline for launching the campaign and the reasons behind the delay.

Police Major Khin Maung Latt from Taunggyi told Mizzima that the government has started destroying opium fields in Pinlaung, Hopong, Sesai and Phekhon Townships since September 4 under the government’s anti-drug scheme.

According to UNOCD surveys, Myanmar is the second largest opium producer in the world after Afghanistan and 90% of the opium fields are in Shan State.

Lt. General Yawdserk, Chaiman RCSS/SSA and Jason Eligh, Country Manager UNODC met in Yangon in June to implement the first phase of opium cultivation reduction.

One third of over 300000 opium farmers in Shan State will participate in the campaign.