An alliance of Karen armed groups have got together to start a crack down on the use of illicit drugs in Karen State.
The Unity Committee of Karen Armed Groups formed the alliance now known as the Anti-Narcotic Joint Committee on July 15. The alliance consists of six Karen armed groups was set up to tackle drug use and drug trafficking.
The committee told Karen News that its task force will start its crackdown on the illicit drug trade and will take actions against drug dealers and users immediately.
Colonel Saw Chit Thu, the Chairman of the Anti-Narcotic Joint Committee said.
“The public had raised the questions and asked if our Karen armed groups were not able to deal with problems of young people being destroyed by illicit drugs? We also don’t want to see the future generations being destroyed. We organize an emergency meeting and formed the committee to deal with the request from our civilians.”
The committee is made up of 17 members from 6 different ethnic Karen armed groups. Before the Anti-Narcotic Joint Committee was formed, the illicit drug eradication program was initiated by members of The Unity Committee for Karen Armed Groups where they organized and conducted event to raise awareness about drug problems in Kawkareik, Hlaingbwe, Papun townships in Karen state since May 2014.
Since the new task force was formed arrests have taken place and a number the implementation of public drug awareness events launched – the total number of arrests so far are 15 drug users and 3 dealers.
Colonel Saw Chit Thu said more than 3,000 amphetamine pills have been seized and arrests will be continued to anyone who involved with business of illicit drugs.
U Aung Myint, the commander of Myawaddy district Police force told the Karen News.
“We are very happy to see the ethnic organizations can suppress the illicit drugs like this. We also believe that it will be effective. We suggest regarding this action, that it is to proceed according to the law, we have already decided to participate if they (ethnic Karen armed groups) request the assistance of our police force.”
On July 14, It was reported Colonel Aung Lwin, minister of Karen State border security affair quoted in a inform letter sent to the committee said the arrest of civilians and of members of the armed groups under the Anti-Narcotics operation should not be punished or sentenced without trial, but should be handed over to the relevant state police departments.
Colonel Saw Chit Thu said in response that, “Our committee has already made it clear that we will take responsibility for areas that are difficult and unable to reach [by State Police]. Even now, we are preparing cases to transfer to the relevant authorities as soon as the investigation process is completed. We are implementing this program with the aim to stop our young Karen people from being destroyed. We do not have any other intentions.”
Drug problems have increased and spread throughout Karen State. Users range from the middle aged down to high school students. Amphetamines are easily available and one pill costs about 3,500 Kyats (USD $3.6), according to local residents.
According to Karen State Police Department figures for June 2014, the police encountered 14 cases of amphetamine and seized 4,137 pills, marijuana with the weight of 163.38 grams, an opium plantation of 209 plants and 30 drug dealers have been arrested. The arrests and drug seizures were mostly in Hpa-An Township and Myawaddy Township.
A media statement announced on state owed television stated that for June 2014, a total of 798 illicit drugs cases have been seized – 674 men and 124 women were arrested by Myanmar police, the Army and the Custom Department.
Burma’s drug trade is regarded as one of the world’s biggest by international and regional security agencies.
The US government’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on its World Fact Book reports that Burma is the “world’s third largest producer of illicit opium with an estimated production in 2012 of 690 metric tons, an increase of 13% over 2011, and poppy cultivation in 2012 totaled 51,000 hectares, a 17% increase over 2011; production in the United Wa State Army’s areas of greatest control remains low; Shan state is the source of 94.5% of Burma’s poppy cultivation.
The CIA World Factbook blames a “lack of government will to take on major narcotrafficking groups and lack of serious commitment against money laundering continues to hinder the overall antidrug effort; major source of methamphetamine and heroin for regional consumption (2013).”