The Irrawaddy

Majority of Moulmein Prisoners Incarcerated on Drug Charges

Moulmein prison/ Hintharnee

MOULMEIN, Mon State — More than half of the prisoners serving their time in Moulmein Prison are incarcerated in connection to drug cases, according to Mon State Chief Minister Dr. Aye Zan.

According to the chief minister, the Moulmein Prison currently has 1,259 inmates, of which more than 650 are imprisoned for drug abuse, dealing or possession.

“One in two inmates are behind bars for drug cases. What’s more, many more have been arrested [in connection with drug cases],” Dr. Aye Zan told The Irrawaddy during the Mon State government’s press conference on its first-year performance.

According to the Mon State Security and Border Affairs Minister Col Win Naing Oo, around 300 drug cases were found and more than 500 million kyats worth of drugs were seized in the state since the National League for Democracy (NLD) government assumed office in April 2016.

Among the seized drugs were marijuana, methamphetamine, and opium. Methamphetamines were the most common, he added.

The Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) also reported overcrowding in prisons across the country earlier this year. Rangoon’s notorious Insein Prison was detaining about 10,000 prisoners — 5,000 more than its maximum capacity, it revealed to the press. About 75 percent of the 3,000 prisoners in Kachin State’s Myitkyina Prison were convicted on drug-related charges, including inmates in their 70s and 80s, MNHRC said.

Local and international advocate groups including Drug Policy Advocacy Group-Myanmar (DPAG) and National Drug Users Network Myanmar (NDNM) have been lobbying for the decriminalization of personal drug use.

Draft legislation modifying the country’s notorious 1993 narcotics law will soon be submitted to Parliament. It would order an effective treatment policy for drug users rather than prescribe punishment and imprisonment, according to advocacy groups.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko