Northern Shan Residents Force Local Drug Addicts Into Rehab Camps

By Nang Seng Nom 12 September 2013

RANGOON — Residents in Muse, a border town in Burma’s northern Shan State, say they have begun rounding up drug addicts and dealers and forcing them into rehabilitation centers to tackle the area’s rising drug problem.

Northern Shan State, along with much of Burma’s border with China, is known for the production, trafficking and use of both heroin, made from locally grown opium poppies, and methamphetamines.

Residents say drugs are widely available in Muse township’s Thain Lone, Zom Zaw and Man Wayn villages. Muse is the crossing point on the border across from the city of Ruili in China’s Yunnan province.

Sam Aye, a resident from Thain Lone village, told the Irrawaddy that locals had recently started taking matters into their own hands because the lives of many young people in the area were being ruined by drugs.

Residents have confiscated and burned drugs, and sent users to a nearby rehabilitation camp where they are forced to get clean, Sam Aye said.

Armed rebel group the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA), which has recently been engaged in fighting with Burmese government forces, operates drug rehabilitation camps in the area.

“In our village, Thain Lone, we managed to arrest five [addicts]. Across other villages in the area, there are other arrested addicts,” he said.

“Such action should have been taken earlier. There are quite a lot of villagers whose lives have been ruined because of narcotics. Actually, the campaign should be launched with the cooperation of authorities.”

A resident from Nong Yan village who has taken part in the campaign to round up drug addicts said drug dealers had also been sent to rehabilitation camps, and residents were spreading the word that people should report on drug users to village leaders.

“[The authorities] used to arrest drug users before, but their actions were not effective. So, I would like to call for the cooperation of all residents in order to make our campaign effective. Because of narcotics, a lot of people have died and the lives of many locals have been ruined,” he said.

One rehabilitation camp, known to be managed by the local militia, was reportedly opened on Aug. 28 in Man Ton, Northern Shan State.

A similar camp was also situated in Nang Mataw, in nearby Namkham, where Battalion 701 of RCSS/SSA is stationed. However, the camp was captured during clashes with the government in May this year during clashes, according to Sao Kam , a spokesman for RCSS/SSA.