Police Question Antidrug Activists About Attack in Myanmar’s Kachin State

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myanmar-pat-jasan-group-kachin-state-feb28-2016.jpg Members of the Christian, antidrug group Pat Jasan return from a mission to destroy opium poppy fields in Waingmaw township in northern Myanmar's Kachin state, Feb. 28, 2016.

Police in northern Myanmar have questioned nine leaders of antidrug campaign groups about recent violent attacks by local opium poppy farmers in war-torn northern Kachin state that injured nearly three dozen people, an official from one of the organizations said Wednesday.

Kachin state police interrogated them about the assaults and fires that occurred on Feb. 25 as members of the groups attempted to destroy poppy fields in Waingmaw township, Gi Fone Dant, chair of community-based drug eradication network Pat Jasan told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

“They asked about the attack regardless of whether the person in question was a leader or just a witness,” he said. “They questioned how the incident happened, who attacked them and who was attacked. If someone was not involved in the incidents or had not witnessed the attacks, they let him go without any problem.”

Some of those the police summoned for questioning were out of town, Gi Fone Dant said.

He also said police would question those who were hospitalized following the attack.

Assisted by police, about 26 teams of locals and members of the Christian, antidrug Pat Jasan group were clearing fields in the Kanpaiktee and Sadon areas as part of a poppy eradication campaign unpopular among those who profit from the multibillion-dollar trade, when they were ambushed, Lagan Zai Jung, a lawmaker representing Waingmaw constituency, told RFA last week.

About 37 people were injured, several motorbikes and homes destroyed, and cars set ablaze during the attack by assailants armed with semiautomatic guns, machetes, grenades and slingshots, according to Pat Jasan activists and other locals. Most of those who were injured in the attack were taken to a local hospital for treatment.

Local militia forces?

Tu Raw, a leader of the Pat Jasan group, suggested last week that the attackers were members of government or local militia forces who had access to semi-automatic weapons and remote-controlled mines.

After the incident, the Kachin state parliament formed a commission led by the state police chief to investigate the attack, local authorities said.

The Pat Jasan group, formed two years ago and made up of mostly ethnic Kachin members with ties to the Kachin Baptist Church, received permission to resume its drug eradication campaign in the Waingmaw area on Feb. 23, after a weeklong standoff with state authorities over security concerns.

Farmers, local militias and corrupt government officials who profit from opium and heroin sales oppose the group’s activities.

On the day of the attack, Myanmar’s lower house parliament passed an emergency motion for the government to support Pat Jasan and other public groups who carry out drug eradication campaigns.  

Myanmar is the world’s second-biggest producer of opium after Afghanistan, and most of its poppies, which are used for opium and heroin, are grown in Kachin and Shan states.

Reported by Zarni Htun for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Kyaw Min Htun. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.


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