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The drug menace and the Tatmadaw’s mission

Sunday, 24 May 2020 10:46 font size decrease font size decrease font size increase font size increase font size

A song about a little town amidst the misty mountain ranges is very popular among the people. Truly, little towns in Shan State are beautiful like the one stated in the verse. Surrounded by greenish mountains and highland farms, Kaungkha area in Kutkai Township, Shan State (North), is a stunning place with its own lovely lake. Besides, Maha Dhammayanthi Yanaungmyin Pagoda on a higher ground at the entrance of the little town always looks splendid. So, Kaungkha is a peaceful and tranquil place. Although Kaungkha is located in Shan State, most of its residents are Kachin ethnics, and it is usual that multiple ethnic races are living in unity in every region and state of Myanmar, which indeed is a Union.

But, I was saddened by a news report about an ugly incident at this beautiful  Khaungkha, which appeared in a daily on 23 February this year.It was about the seizure of 37,800 stimulant tablets and materials used in producing narcotic drugs with a street value of Ks- 56,700,000 in a basement hidden under the ground in a grove 1,500 metres north of Loikham Village on 20 February by a battalion of the Tatmadaw while it was taking security measures in Kuangkha village-tract in Kutkai Township.

According to the follow-up news, the Tatmadaw made necessary reinforcements after collecting ground information about the surrounding areas of Kaungkha Village, and the Myanmar Police Force (MPF) dispatched 300 members by air. Then, a combined team of  Tatmadaw troops and police members searched the area for 44 times during the period from 28 February to 1 April this year, and exposed and seized 148,796,600 stimulant tablets, 286.23 kilograms of heroin, 291 kilograms of morphine, 1.6 kilograms of solid heroin, 16 kilograms of solid opium oil, 12.65 kilograms of powdered and broken tablets, 135 kilograms of raw opium, 509 kilograms of ICE and 249 kinds of equipment used in refining drugs at a street value of over Ks-393 billion. The drugs and the related materials were found in 38 houses in Loikham Village, and the combined team had also exposed and seized 73 assorted arms and 22 various types of vehicles, and when the Tatmadaw in cooperation with the MPF tried to capture the suspects in enforcing the rule of law, 28 male suspects and four female suspects were arrested for one arms case and 52 drug cases. The combined team also filed lawsuit against 38 male and 2 female absconders, and was identifying other eight persons.

Tatmadaw helicopters flew day-trip to Kaungkha area, carrying military attaches and deputy military attaches of foreign missions in Myanmar, country-wise anti-drug bodies, police members of the Myanmar Anti-Narcotics Association, and local and foreign media to witness the large cache of drugs and related equipment. Officials explained the seizure of drugs and related equipment. Officials of the Tatmadaw explained that opium cultivation and drug manufacturing still existed in some parts of Shan State; that the Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services gave an instruction to launch the anti-drug drive as a military operation as the narcotics were a menace to the entire nation; and that a senior military officer was sent to North-East Command headquarters to directly command the operation. Valuable information was received thanks to the coordination the Tatmadaw had made with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of the United States and Australian Federal Police (AFP) of Australia, under the guidance of the Commander-in-Chief.This information was combined with the uncovered evidence on the ground and the tipoffs from confidential informants to see the whole picture. Traffickers, taking instability as a cover, are manufacturing large hauls of drugs in the areas where ethnic armed organizations are active. Drugs are produced in certain parts of Shan State and sent abroad through the marine routes from Rakhine State.  The seized drugs and related equipment were systematically transferred to the MPF. An official of the anti-drug squad of the MPF, after presenting a review of the drug seizures after 2000, explained the launching of 28 special operations during the period between 2013 and 2019.  The 2020 special anti-drug operation (1511)is in progress in 2020.Six countries signed the MoU and are cooperating in preventing the spread of drugs from the Golden Triangle.The anti-rug drive is conducted with the help of mobile x-ray vehicles. Drugs were also seized in Rakhine State. Timely information sharing with the Office of the Narcotics Control Board(ONCB) has been conducted to check and arrest the illegal promethazine cases.As regards the promethazine, which is used in producing narcotic drugs, the ONCB is cooperating with Food and Drug Administration of Thailand. Two foreigners and a Myanmar citizen were arrested together with 74 kilograms of ICE in Yangon under the information sharing program with AFP. Tatmadaw (Navy) busted a large haul of ICE  at sea in the west of Kawthoung. The rate of captured controlled chemicals dropped, but later, traffickers turned to uncontrolled chemicals that can also be used in manufacturing drugs. Some EAOs are transporting drugs to neighbouring countries through the border in connection with the transnational drug gangs. I have read the clarifica-tions of the officials in the March 7, 8 and 9 issues of  The Myawady Daily.


Those incidents have tarnished the image of the tranquil and beautiful Kaungkha.The news reports have exposed the possible connection between the confiscated drugs and related equipment and the Loikham (Local) People’s Militia, which is under the command of Kaungkha People’s Militia (Local). According to the background history of Kaungkha People’s Militia, some of the ethnic Kachin people joined the armed insurgency of ethnic Kayins in 1949. They then founded Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in 1960.KIA was founded with two brigades, but in 1972, it was active with four brigades. The KIA brigade (4) was active in Kutkai area. As the surrounding areas had restored peace, KIA brigade (4) was the only remaining armed band in 1989. After assessing the situation from all angles, deputy commander U Mahtu Naw secretly formed a provisional committee to leave the KIA (central) and restore peace. He then contacted the Military Intelligence for holding peace negotiations.

Tatmadaw delegation led by the commander of North-East Comm- and held talks with the team led by U Mahtu Naw of KIA brigade (4) in Lashio on 13 January 1991. After the meeting KIA brigade (4) agreed to abandon the armed struggle line and restore peace. The brigade (4) with 2,000 members and 2009 assorted arms, led by U Mahtu Naw was transformed into Kachin  Defence Army (KDA). The State removed it from the list of unlawful association on 11 January 1991. KDA was later designated as the Shan State (North) Special Region (5), and provided with food, financial assistance and regional development undertakings.

In accord with the provision that the State shall have a defence services mentioned in the constitution 2008, as implementation of reform plans started on 28 April 2009, discussion was held for Shan State (North) Special Region (5) KDA group on 22 May 2009. KDA group of Shan State (North) Special Region (5) submitted its proposal to transform itself into the people’s militia with 850 members of strength and 961 arms in 11 groups including members of the panel of patrons. Hence, the group was transformed into the people’s militia with 290 permanent troops and 560 reserved troops, totalling 850 with 1,108 arms.

Kaungkha People’s Militia (Local) Group was set up with 11 groups namely Kaungkha supervisory group, Kaungkha (1), Kaungkha (2), Kaungkha (3), Hophyet, Loikam, Karlai, Manyonmaw, Manlin, Hoko and Manmeg. It can be observed that Kaungkha People’s Militia (Local) Group had discharged military operation duties joining hands with the Tatmadaw. With regard to significant fighting events, a section of the platoon office from forward No 290 Infantry Regiment combined with 22 members led by U Liter Fa of Kaungkha People’s Militia (Local) Group fought against 70 MNDAA/TNLA insurgents while controlling Namkhai tem-porary stronghold base on 18 August 2019. The combined forces also clashed with 110 MNDAA/TNLA insurgents on 19 August 2019.  It can be found that Kaungkha People’s Militia (Local) Group cooperated with the Tatmadaw in undertaking regional development tasks and organizational tasks and built two hydropower stations, 10 rural dispensaries, three rural health branches, five sections of intervillage earthen roads, two sections of inter-village asphalt roads, 13 rural bridges, one basic education high school, five basic education middle schools, 26 basic education primary schools, one ethnic literature school, two Chinese literature and culture schools, 11 Buddhist monasteries, 19 Baptist churches and 10 Catholic cathedrals. As part of recording the good history, Kaungkha People’s Militia (Local) Group discharged military operation duties and strived for development of Kaungkha region  in cooperation with  the Tatmadaw.

However,  officials  of North-East Command Headquarters gave a warning and coordinated with group wise leaders of Kaungkha People’s Militia (Local) Group for their relations with narcotic drugs issue of Loikham People’s Militia Group. Kaungkha People’s Militia (Local) Group decided to hand over their arms to the Tatmadaw as they understood that seizures of narcotic drugs and related equipment in their region and armed activities of the group might be assumed as relations with narcotic drug production. As they did not have a wish to hold arms in a long run and are keen to soonest establish agricultural and livestock breeding tasks as long-term legal businesses in civilian lives, they expressed their wishes to operate legal businesses allowed by the government. 

Officials discussed that the Tatmadaw would provide 550 bags of rice, five barrels of cooking oil and 50 bags of gram to families of the group while the latter is carrying out rehabilitation tasks, disburse loans to them without interest rate as capitals for operating agricultural and livestock breeding tasks, render technical assistance and legalize mining and gem exploration of the People’s Militia Group.

Kaungkha People’s Militia Group has totally handed over 1,906 assorted arms, 510,062 rounds of ammunition, 2,197 assorted rockets and shells, 1,100 grenades, 29 mines and related accessories to the Tatmadaw on 29 March as the group did not wish to hold arms in a long run since it had exchanged arms for peace. Likewise, group members discharging security duties in assigned areas wished to do legal businesses for development of the region in peace and tranquility due to responsibilities taken by respective in-charge leaders.

In fact, narcotic drug has been spreading in Myanmar since colonial era. After occupying the lower Myanmar in 1853, the British import-ed opium from India. Hence, a total of 55,000 opium addicts registered at the colonialist government. But, a half amount of the registered ones did not register at the government. As such, number of total opium addicts reached some 100,000. In 1950, the Myanmar government enacted a law to prohibit opium addiction. But, opium production industry boomed in Shan State in the colonial era. Kuomintang invaded into Shan State and then operated opium production on a larger scale. The organization which firstly and practically carried out eradication of narcotic drugs in Myanmar is the Myanmar Tatmadaw.  As the first drug eradication military operation was Operation Panpi, the violent fighting happened from 17 to 26 September 1975. The Tatmadaw deployed helicopters in the operation to destroy opium refineries and seized 300 gallons of opium oil and equipment used in opium refinery. These opium refineries were established by SURA (Moe Hein) Group and 300 Kuomintang troops near Panpi Village, south of Langkhio Township, southern Shan State. In its history, the Tatmadaw implemented the largest drug operations from Moe Hein Operation Phase (1) to Phase (12). These operations were conducted in northeast and eastern regions of Shan State from 26 April 1976 to 11 April 1988. In the operations, 69 servicemen of the Tatmadaw sacrificed their lives and 451 were injured. The Tatmadaw has been striving for eradication of narcotic drug which threatens the whole mankind since many decades. As drug production and trafficking were related with armed groups in Myanmar, servicemen of the Tatmadaw sacrificed their lives and limbs whenever drug eradication operations were implemented. Thanks to the exact guidance of the Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services, perseverance and diligence of the close supervisor senior military officers and efforts of operation units and Myanmar Police Force, the largest volume and value of narcotic drugs were seized in Kaungkha area in the history of drug eradication.

Everybody had committed mistakes. A Myanmar saying goes no lawyer don’t make mistake, no physician don’t die. Kaungkha area has been peaceful and tranquil since yore. Although it was notorious for seizures of a large volume of narcotic drugs, it revised itself for standing with legal businesses in the future and for undertaking regional development in peace and stability. As such, it should pay respect and praise for the attitudes of the leaders of Kaungkha People’s Militia Group which decided to operate legal businesses for their lives peacefully and that of Tatmadaw leaders for providing ration, techniques and monetary assistance for the People’s Militia troops and families with the brotherly spirit. Moreover, the officials who initiated discussions related to Kaungkha area could bring about bilateral interest and peace, tranquility and development of Kaungkha area. The event of Kaungkha People’s Militia (Local) Group was a noticeable for other groups. The Tatmadaw has been combating narcotic drugs as a danger of the national with sacrifice of life, blood and sweat for successive eras. In the future, the Tatmadaw will clearly carry out such kind of events in accord with the existing laws by upholding the interest of the State and the people. Therefore, various organizations were urged to operate legal businesses for development of their organizations and security and development of their areas without relating with the narcotic drugs cases so as to serve the interest of the State and the people.

Zaw Min Tun (Yaynanchaung), Min Thi Ha


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