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Drugs and conflict

Individual Documents

Title: We Are Not Rebels… We Fight for Democracy: Ta’ang (TNLA) Soldiers
Date of publication: 13 July 2015
Description/subject: "Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the armed wing of Palaung State Liberation Front (PSLF), is one of the ethnic resistance armed organisations that vows not to lay down arms until there is a guarantee of political negotiations. Burma Link spoke with two TNLA soldiers, Mai and Mai Main, who were sent by their leaders to study human rights and politics in Mae Sot, so that they could go back to Ta’ang land and educate other soldiers. These two soldiers studied in Mae Sot for a year, and believed it is their responsibility to go back to Burma to educate others and safeguard their people’s rights. In this interview, they share their story on how and why they became involved with the TNLA and why the Ta’ang people so strongly support their army. Mai and Mai Main, aged 23 and 26, are now back in the battle fields of northern Shan State." ..."END NOTE: Although TNLA is a member of the ethnic alliance United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), the government has tried to exclude the group from the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) talks. TNLA is an ally of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), and fights alongside the Arakan Army (AA) and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) in northern Shan State, to obtain freedom and to establish a genuine federal union. TNLA also fights to eliminate cultivation, production, sale and use of drugs in their traditional lands. Read more."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Burma Link
Format/size: pdf
Date of entry/update: 17 March 2016

Title: Ta’ang (Palaung) Leader Tar Aik Bong: ‘Without Proper Political Solutions, There Will Be No Lasting Peace’
Date of publication: 11 November 2014
Description/subject: "Tar Aik Bong is a leader of the Ta’ang (Palaung) people, one of Burma’s ethnic nationalities that continues a daily struggle for survival in largely inaccessible areas in northern Shan State. He joined the Ta’ang liberation movement in 1987, and currently serves as Chairman of Palaung State Liberation Front (PSLF) and Head of the military commission of Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA). TNLA is one of the few ethnic armies that continues to fight against the Burma army and vows not to lay down arms until equal rights and a lasting political solution is achieved. TNLA fights to “obtain freedom for all Ta’ang nationals from oppression, to form Ta’ang autonomous regions that guarantee democracy and human rights, to oppose and fight against dictatorship and any form of racial discrimination, to attain national equality and self-determination and to establish a genuine Federal Union that guarantees Ta’ang autonomy and to eliminate cultivation, production, sale and use of narcotics.” Tar Aik Bong is also a member of the ethnic alliance United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) council and Foreign Affairs Department. In an exclusive interview with Burma Link, Tar Aik Bong talks about the causes and current situation of the Ta’ang conflict, the role of the UNFC, and the brutal tactics that the Burmese military uses against Ta’ang civilians in order to cut the opposition movement. Tar Aik Bong also discusses the Burmese military’s instrumental role in the epidemic drug usage in Ta’ang areas, and TNLA’s plan to eradicate the drugs."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Burma Link
Format/size: pdf
Date of entry/update: 18 March 2016

Title: Silent Offensive: How Burma Army strategies are fuelling the Kachin drug crisis
Date of publication: 08 October 2014
Description/subject: “Silent Offensive” by the Kachin Women’s Association Thailand (KWAT) reveals how the Burma Army is allowing its local militia to grow opium and produce heroin and other drugs in exchange for fighting against the KIA. As Burmese troops and their allies have progressively seized control of KIA areas, drug production has been increasing. The main opium growing areas in Kachin State are now in Chipwi and Waingmaw townships, under the control of the Burma Army and its local Border Guard Forces led by Zakhung Ting Ying, a National Assembly MP. In northern Shan State, opium is booming in areas under the Burma Army and thirteen government militia forces, four of whose leaders are MPs in the Shan State Assembly. Opium, heroin and methamphetamines are flooding from these government-controlled areas into Kachin communities, worsening existing problems of drug abuse, particularly among youth. It is estimated that about one third of students in Myitkyina and Bhamo universities are injecting drug users. The report details the harrowing impacts of the drug crisis on women, who struggle to support their families while husbands and sons sell off household property and steal to feed their addiction. Frustrated with the authorities’ lack of political will to deal with the drug problem, women are taking a lead among local communities in setting up their own programs to combat drugs. KWAT critiques UNODC and other international donors for not focusing on the role of the war, and particularly the anti-insurgency policies of the government, in fuelling the drug problem in Burma. KWAT urges all stakeholders to focus on finding a just political settlement to the conflict as an urgent priority in tackling the drug crisis.
Language: English
Source/publisher: Kachin Women's Association, Thailand
Format/size: pdf (2.6MB-en; 4.2MB-bu)
Alternate URLs: http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs19/KWAT-Silent_Offensive_Drug_Report-bu-red.pdf
Date of entry/update: 08 October 2014

Title: Silent Offensive: How Burma Army strategies are fuelling the Kachin drug crisis ျမန္မာတပ္မေတာ္၏ နည္းဗ်ဳဟာေၾကာင့္ ကခ်င္ေဒသမ်ားတြင္ မူးယစ္ေဆး၀á
Date of publication: 08 October 2014
Description/subject: á€»á€™á€”္မာတပ္မေတာ္၏ နည္းဗ်ဳဟာေၾကာင့္ ကခ်င္ေဒသမ်ားတြင္ မူးယစ္ေဆး၀ါးျပႆနာ ေၾကာက္ခမန္းလိလိ ၾကီးထြားလာျခင္း
Language: Burmese/ ျမန္မာဘာသာ
Source/publisher: Kachin Women's Association, Thailand (KWAT)
Format/size: pdf (2.7MB)
Date of entry/update: 08 October 2014

Title: Withdrawal Symptoms - Changes in the Southeast Asian drugs market
Date of publication: August 2008
Description/subject: The Golden Triangle is closing a dramatic period of opium reduction”, wrote UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa in his preface to the 2007 survey on Opium Poppy Cultivation in South East Asia. “A decade long process of drug control is clearly paying off.” According to the survey, the region produced one-third of world opium production in 1998, now down to only about 5 percent. The once notorious region “can no longer be called Golden Triangle on the reason of opium production alone.” There has clearly been a significant decline in opium production in Southeast Asia over the past decade in spite of a resurgence in Burma (Myanmar) in the last two years. In this study, we try to assess the causes and consequences, and come to the conclusion that the region is suffering a variety of ‘withdrawal symptoms’, leaving little reason for optimism. The rapid decline has caused major suffering among former poppy growing communities in Burma and Laos, making it difficult to characterise developments as a ‘success story’. Meanwhile, the market of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) has increased rapidly and higher heroin prices are leading to shifts in consumer behaviour. While the total numbers of opium and heroin users may be going down, many have started to inject and others have shifted to a cocktail of pharmaceutical replacements, representing largely unknown health risks. Confronted with harsh domestic repression and little support from the international community, both farmers and users in the region are struggling to find coping strategies to deal with the rapid changes. Drug control officials have presumed that reducing opium production would automatically lead to a reduction in drug consumption and drugrelated problems. The reality in Southeast Asia proves them wrong. Had quality treatment services been in place, more drug users may have chosen that option. In the absence of adequate health care and within a highly repressive law enforcement environment, however, most are forced to find their own ‘solutions’. Harm reduction services are still only accessible to a tiny proportion of those who need them in the region, even though most countries have now adopted the basic principles in their policy framework. China, especially, has started to significantly scale up needle exchange and methadone programmes to prevent a further spreading of blood-borne infections. In 1998, the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting signed the declaration for a Drug-Free ASEAN by 2020 and two years later even decided to bring forward the target year to 2015. Countries elaborated national plans to comply with the deadline putting huge pressure on rural communities to abandon poppy cultivation and traditional opium use and on police to arrest as many users and traders as possible. This also led to the 2003 ‘war on drugs’ in Thailand in which thousands of drug users and small-scale traders were killed. The 2008 status report on progress achieved towards making ASEAN and China drug-free, “identifies an overall rising trend in the abuse of drugs”, however, and acknowledges that “a target of zero drugs for production, trafficking and consumption of illicit drugs in the region by 2015 is obviously unattainable”. This TNI publication makes extensive use of the research carried out by our team of fifteen researchers working in Burma, Thailand, Laos and Yunnan province in China. Hundreds of interviews were conducted with farmers, users and traders. We cannot thank them enough for their motivation and courage. Most prefer to remain anonymous and continue their research to detect new trends and help fill gaps in knowledge that have become apparent while writing this first report. A more detailed publication incorporating their latest findings is due at the end of this year. We intend to discuss our outcomes with authorities, civil society and researchers in the region with a view to contributing to a better understanding of the changes taking place in the regional drugs market and to design more effective and humane drug policy responses for the future.
Author/creator: Tom Kramer, Martin Jelsma
Language: English
Source/publisher: Transnational Institute (TNI) Debate Papers No. 16
Format/size: pdf (688K)
Alternate URLs: http://www.idpc.net/publications/changes-in-southeast-asian-drugs-market
Date of entry/update: 11 August 2010

Title: Downward Spiral: Banning Opium in Afghanistan and Burma
Date of publication: June 2005
Description/subject: "...Opium farmers in Afghanistan and Burma are coming under huge pressure as local authorities implement bans on the cultivation of poppy. Banning opium has an immediate and profound impact on the livelihoods of more than 4 million people.These bans are a response to pressure from the international community. Afghan and Burmese authorities alike are urging the international community to accompany their pressure with substantial aid. For political reasons, levels of humanitarian and alternative development aid are very different between the two countries. The international community has pledged several hundred millions for rural development in poppy growing regions in Afghanistan. In sharp contrast, pledged support that could soften the crisis in poppy regions in Burma is less than $15 million, leaving an urgent shortfall. Opium growing regions in both countries will enter a downward spiral of poverty because of the ban.The reversed sequencing of first forcing farmers out of poppy cultivation before ensuring other income opportunities is a grave mistake.Aggressive drug control efforts against farmers and small-scale opium traders, and forced eradication operations in particular, also have a negative impact on prospects for peace and democracy in both countries. In neither Afghanistan nor Burma have farmers had any say at all in these policies from which they stand to suffer most. It is vital that local communities and organisations that represent them are given a voice in the decision-making process that has such a tremendous impact on their livelihoods..."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Transnational Institute (TNI)
Format/size: pdf (340.59 K)
Alternate URLs: http://www.idpc.net/php-bin/documents/TNI_BP_OpiumAfghAndBurma_EN.pdf
Date of entry/update: 11 August 2010

Title: DRUGS AND CONFLICT IN BURMA (MYANMAR): Dilemmas for Policy Responses
Date of publication: December 2003
Description/subject: "Burma is on the brink of yet another humanitarian crisis. In the Kokang region, an opium ban was enforced last year, and by mid-2005 no more poppy growing will be allowed in the Wa region. Banning opium in these Shan State regions adds another chapter to the long and dramatic history of drugs, conflict and human suffering. TNI tries to bring nuance to the polarised debate on the Rangoon-focussed political agenda, the demonising of the ceasefire groups and repressive drug policy approaches. Hundreds of thousands of farmers who depend on the opium economy risk being sacrificed in an effort to comply with international pressures about drug-free deadlines. Community livelihoods face being crushed between the pincers of the opium ban and tightened sanctions. The unfolding drama caused by the opium bans is forcing the international community to rethink its strategies. Enforcement of tight deadlines will result in major food shortages and may jeopardise the fragile social stability in the areas. To sustain the gradual decline in opium production, alternative sources of income for basic subsistence farmers have to be secured. Without adequate resources, the longer-term sustainability of ‘quick solutions’ is highly questionable. Since military authorities are eager to comply with promises made, law enforcement repression is likely to increase, with human rights abuses and more displacement a potential outcome. The only viable and humane option lies in a simultaneous easing of drug control deadline pressures and increasing international humanitarian aid efforts. Both require stronger international engagement of a different kind to that we have seen so far."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Transnational Institute
Format/size: pdf (1.5MB)
Alternate URLs: http://www.tni.org/article/drugs-and-conflict-burma-myanmar
Date of entry/update: 11 August 2010

Title: From Pyusawhti to the Present
Date of publication: January 2003
Description/subject: Burma’s history of militias immersed in corruption dates back a long way...In a military effort to contain the southward spread of communism, a convoy of military vehicles relocated Kokang and Wa warlords and landlords from Tangyan to mountain areas closer to the border. The increase in traffic meant that heroin could transit freely in mule caravans from Tangyan to Doilerng under military protection. The genie was out of the bottle. Khun Sa and his army set up a sovereign kingdom of their own in places once haunted by the Kuomintang. With profits from the burgeoning drug trade, Khun Sa could rest easy in his mountain kingdom. It wasn’t until 1973, when the international community begged for something to be done about Burma’s flourishing drug trade, that the junta dissolved the kakweye. But the junta’s response was too little, too late. And though there has been campaign after campaign against armed opposition forces, the Burmese army has never called for a serious military campaign to quell or wipe out drug barons. Why would they? Top military leaders enjoy all kinds of favors and kickbacks from drug traders..." "
Author/creator: Pho Thar Aung
Language: English
Source/publisher: "The Irrawaddy" Vol. 11, No. 1
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 03 June 2003