Home Affairs Ministry Admits Difficulty Fighting Drugs

By Moe Moe 13 September 2018

NAYPYITAW — The Home Affairs Ministry admitted that it is weak in controlling the smuggling of illicit drug precursors into the country, said deputy minister Major-General Aung Thu.

“Since it is difficult to fully control the border gates, we can’t adequately control the smuggling of precursors into the country. So there are challenges in fighting drugs,” the deputy minister told the Upper House of Parliament.

The deputy minister said so in response to the complaint by lawmaker U Tun Tun Oo of Mandalay Constituency (2) that Yaba tablets can now be easily bought across the country.

The ministry has installed since August modern narcotics detection equipment, which can be used to inspect through exhaust pipes, doors, dashboards, tires and other hidden spaces within a vehicle, at inspection gates along the route used to smuggle drugs, said the deputy minister.

Moreover, the ministry is also planning to equip X-ray machines that can scan a whole truck, he added.

“In my question, I urged the ministry to undertake a special anti-narcotics operation. But the deputy minister gave the usual answer. I’m not satisfied with it,” lawmaker U Tun Tun Oo told reporters.

He said he would meet the Mandalay regional government and urge it to crack down on drug dealers in the region.

“Despite his [deputy minister’s] answer in Parliament, there are a lot of weaknesses on the ground. [Anti-drug efforts] are not encouraging. To be frank, the mice heavily outnumber the cats. In some areas, lawmakers dare not speak out for fear that their families will be hurt then,” lawmaker Dr. Khun Thaung Win of Kachin State Constituency (11) told The Irrawaddy.

The ministry said that it seized over 2 trillion kyats worth precursors and other lab equipment smuggled through the border in 27 cases within eight months from January through August.

The invention of compact tablet-making machines and easier access to illicit drug precursors has contributed a lot to the production and supply of Yaba tablets across the country, said U Tun Tun Oo.

Ko Naung Naung Lat, 22, who spent years behind the bars for drug abuse, told The Irrawaddy: “I experimented with drugs, and became addicted. Later, I found myself ready to do anything, good or bad, to get money.

According to the 2017 report of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Myanmar’s poppy plantations declined from 55,500 hectares in 2015 to 41,000 hectares in 2017. Similarly, opium production declined from 647 metric tons in 2015 to 550 metric tons in 2017.

In May, the President’s Office created an anti-drug department and incentivized the public to participate in the fight against drug production and dealing.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.