Myanmar’s deputy home affairs minister Major General Aung Soe on Tuesday requested additional police officers and funding to combat illegal narcotics in eastern Myanmar’s impoverished Shan state where sales and use of methamphetamine and heroin are rampant.
Aung Soe told the attendees at a state parliamentary meeting that his ministry is working with the Myanmar military to combat the drug trade there.
Nearly 1,100 people, including 128 police officers, are currently dedicated to working on anti-drug measures, he said.
“We are working on getting more manpower,” Aung Soe said. “We will also ask for more money to work on anti-drug operations because we don’t have enough money to do so.”
Shan state is plagued by flagrant drug activity with the narcotics of choice being heroin and methamphetamine, an extremely addictive stimulant in the form of a white, bitter-tasting crystalline powder, commonly sold as “yaba” tablets.
Aung Soe statements came as eight Shan state parliament lawmakers discussed anti-drug proposals and approved them for further discussion.
The eradication of illegal narcotics is one of the goals of the civilian government under State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader, which came to power four months ago.
On July 25, the upper house of Myanmar’s national parliament unanimously approved a motion submitted by ethnic Shan lawmaker Sai One Hlaing Kham to combat rampant illegal drug sales and use in the state.
He had submitted the proposal to take more effective action against drug gangs who sell heroin and methamphetamine tablets.
Major anti-drug campaigns in northern Myanmar’s Kachin state, western Myanmar’s Rakhine state, and central Myanmar’s Mandalay region during the past two weeks have collectively resulted in arrests and netted hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of drugs during the past week.
Myanmar is the world’s second-biggest producer of opium after Afghanistan, with most of its poppies, which are used for both opium and heroin, grown in Shan and Kachin states.
Reported by Win Ko Ko Latt for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.