Anti-Poppy Campaigners Blocked by Authorities in Waingmaw

By Zue Zue 17 February 2016

RANGOON — A group of vigilante anti-drug campaigners on a mission to destroy poppy fields in Kachin State’s Waingmaw Township on Wednesday were blocked by authorities, according to members of the group.

The team, reported to include up to 2,000 members, was seeking to reach poppy fields in Sadung and Kambaiti sub-townships of Waingmaw Township but were blocked at an army checkpoint near the junction of Sadung and Chipwi roads at noon.

Mong Seng, one of the group’s leaders, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday morning, “We are still being blocked. Four more military trucks arrived this morning. We asked for a meeting with the commander, who is of colonel rank, but this has yet to happen.”

A week ago, Mong Seng said, the anti-drug team had requested security support from the Kachin State chief minister and from the military command, but on failing to receive a response, the group decided to carry on with its campaign plans.

Local civil society organizations have been leading anti-drug campaigns to destroy poppy fields for nearly two years. The groups claimed to have destroyed over 3,000 acres of poppy fields in 2015 alone.

Poppy destruction has focused on five townships in the northern state, Sumprabum, Putao, Chipwi, Tanai and Waingmaw. Last month, a teenage member of the anti-drugs group, known as Pat Ja San, was shot and killed while on a poppy eradication drive in Tanai Township, allegedly by a poppy plantation owner.

Maran Ja La, a member of Hpakant Township’s community drug-eradication team, told The Irrawaddy that campaigners “want government support for people who voluntarily participate in the initiative to fight against poppies and other drugs, which discredit the country.”

Translated by Nyein Nyein.