Karen National Union (KNU) officers, in Ler Mu Lah Township, have imposed restrictions on alcohol sales from May 1 to the thousands of gold miners who come to the area prospecting for gold.
KNU officials have put in the alcohol restrictions in an attempt to prevent problems between miners and local and in an effort to maintain Karen traditional values.
The KNU’s Ler Mu Lah Township chairman, P’doh Saw Eh Kaw, spoke to Karen News about the issue.
“For a long time in areas under KNU control there was no open selling of alcohol. Now alcohol is sold everywhere and is widespread. We have made a decision to reduce the usage of alcohol from the beginning of
May. We discussed this with the people [involved] and they agreed to reduce the selling of alcohol.”
Thousands of workers from all over Burma work the Bu Lu stream for gold. The area is located in Tenasserim southern Burma. Locals say the usage and selling of a wide range of alcohol has grown among workers in the mining area.
P’doh Saw Eh Kaw said.
“We fear that due to the large amount of alcohol being sold there will be an increase in family problems and among the gold workers. There is also the [added] problem that arises between Karen authorities responsible for security in the gold mining area and miners under the influence of alcohol. Some workers spend all their income on alcohol.”
Not everyone is looking forward to the KNU’s restrictions on alcohol.
Aye Aye Khaing, a wife of miner who runs a small shop told Karen News.
“I cannot sell [alcohol] very good when worker’s don’t’ have gold. Alcohol sells best the worker are tired. I believe when they [miners] drink they are healthy and protected from malaria at the work site.”
Htun Win a gold mineworker spoke to Karen News.
“Sometimes when we are tired and having break we drink [alcohol)]. They [KNU] don’t allow people to bring alcohol in or use drugs.”
Oo Pa Pu, a mine owner told Karen News.
“The KNU informed us in advance about the stopping of selling alcohol and that it is to prevent problems. There have been fights and problems from alcohol, but it is not a big problem. Here, there many different people from all over [Burma], they don’t know each other, so I think it is to prevent problems.”
Oo Pa Pu said he can see both sides of the argument.
“There are both positive and negative about it [restrictions]. Some people need just a small amount, but for some people who drink a lot it makes problems. The KNU have banned the use of other drugs. If drugs are smuggled in and the KNU finds out they will take action – the KNU have warned miners that they will be shut down.”