Monday, February 21, 2011

KIO arrests nearly 1,000 people in anti-drug campaign

Monday, 21 February 2011 21:45 Phanida

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Under a wide ranging anti-drug round-up and campaign, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) has arrested 981 drug users, according to a KIO officer.

Opium poppy growing in a cultivated field in Tanai
Township in southern Kachin State. (Photo: Mizzima)
The drug eradication campaign started in October and most of those arrested were identified as drug users or traffickers in the age group of 15 to 40, said Captain Naw Bu, a drug campaign spokesman.

He said everyone received lectures, and some people who were labeled as traffickers were fined, in accordance with the quantity of their dealing.

‘We didn’t do anything to harm them physically, and we refrained from taking more serious action’, he said.

Some people were held over in the anti-drug office in Laizar to help them in their fight against addiction, he said.

People were arrested in areas around Laizar, the 3rd Brigade area, the border area around Mai Ja Yan, Innbapa, the triangle area, and other areas near Phakant, Tanai and Awnglauk.

Moreover, he said the KIO is taking action against 127 drug traffickers. People who were found with raw opium of 1 viss (3.6 lbs) or more were charged a small fine, he said.

Captain Naw Bu said that most of those arrested as drug traffickers were grass roots people who dealt in small quantities of drugs.

The KIO had reportedly destroyed 6,574 acres (2,660 hectares) of opium fields in Wai Maw and Sadone areas, east of Kachin State. The KIO agreed in principle with the junta’s drug eradication campaign before the junta pushed them to convert their army into a Border Guard Force (BGF). Relations between the regime and KIO were severed in May 2010.

‘We had an agreement with the junta in principle,’ said Captain Naw Bu, refering to the anti-drug campaign.

‘But they sometimes imposed restrictions and harassed us in our campaigns. They restricted our movements and sometimes they said that there were no opium fields in certain areas’, he told Mizzima.

Observers frequently say that some armed groups earn money from opium growing and trafficking and use the drug money for procurement of arms and ammunitions for their cause.

However, Captain Naw Bu said that the KIO absolutely did not grow opium or use money from drugs to buy arms. He said the KIO adopted its anti-drug policy at its inception in 1964, but it  could not implement it forcefully and efficiently as it had to wage an armed struggle against the junta for the Kachin people’s self-determination and human rights.

He said the KIO issued a ‘no opium growing’ ban in 1991 and implemented it by educating opium farmers and destroying opium fields. The drug was eradicated in Naphaw, Lweje on China border, and in some areas in Shan State, he said, and drug substitution crops such as sugarcane and paddy have succeeded in some areas.

He said a drug eradication campaign can be achieved successfully only if all people join in the campaign and the international community also provides assistance.

Captain Naw Bu said Kachin families are increasingly abusing narcotics, and many young people are infected with drug-related diseases.

The KIO drug eradication plan is done out of a sense of responsibility, he said, not because of the junta or international pressure.

‘We do this because of our own conscience’, he said. ‘We do this job because this is a national cause’.

The KIO started its armed struggle against the central government in 1961, fighting for its goals of autonomy and equality.

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