TNLA Attacks Five Poppy-Growing Hubs in Northern Myanmar

By Lawi Weng 16 March 2020

The Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) said it launched attacks on five militia bases in Namkham Township, northern Shan State, yesterday (Sunday) in a crackdown on illegal poppy farms.

The TNLA issued a statement saying one militia member was killed, eight were detained and three TNLA members were wounded.

“We went to destroy poppy plantations at their bases and they fought back,” said the TNLA.

The TNLA attacked bases at Pan Say, Tar Kut, Par Sai, Mong Pang and Sar Taing at between 5:30am and 2:30pm. The armed group said Myanmar’s army, based in Namkham and Kutkai, helped the militia by firing artillery from a distance.

The TNLA said it found 352 kg of black opium, 40,000 amphetamine pills and 24 guns with ammunition. 

Around 4 hectares of poppy plantations were destroyed, Major Tar Aike Kyaw, a TNLA spokesman, told The Irrawaddy, adding that the TNLA would prosecute the eight members of the Pan Say militia who were detained. 

“We will take action against them under our law. They will be punished, based on the amount of drugs we seized,” he said.

Most poppy cultivation takes place on a mountain where the Pan Say militia controls territory in Namkham, the spokesman added. Both villagers and militia members grow poppies, according to the TNLA.

The militia grows poppy near its bases, Maj. Tar Aike Kyaw added.

Members of the TNLA destroy poppy plants in grown in land held Pan Say

Some poppy farmers who were detained by the TNLA reportedly said they sold raw opium to the militias. 

“We do not have detailed information about how they trade their product. But we asked them after they were arrested and they said the militia let them grow the poppy and bought the crops,” said Maj. Tar Aike Kyaw. 

The ethnic Ta’ang armed group said it began to crack down on illegal drugs in its territory in 2011, two years after the armed group was formed. 

The TNLA said it recognized that illegal drugs were a national problem and crack downs on poppy cultivation would continue every year. 

The poppy had not been grown along the highway from Muse, Lashio and Mandalay since 2017, according to the group. Poppy growing only persisted in areas held by armed militias, said Maj. Tar Aike Kyaw.  

The TNLA said it met farmers to urge them to grow corn and other crops. 

It added that most drugs came from Namkham and Muse townships and were transported through lawless areas.

TNLA, based in northern Shan State, is actively fighting Myanmar’s army and is a member of the Northern Alliance, which has engaged in peace negotiations with the government. 

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