The Amsterdam-based Transnational Institute (TNI), known for reports from its Drugs and Democracy Programme, in the run-up to the International Day against Drug Abuse and illicit Trafficking, which falls on 26 June, has released another report saying the ongoing peace process has raised hope for more effective drug policies.
“The reform process by the new quasi-civilian government includes both a peace process to end the civil war and a review of the country’s drug laws, raising hope for more effective and humane drug policies,” it writes.
The government, it says, has initiated a consultative process with relevant government ministries, United Nations agencies, and local and governmental organizations to discuss a draft proposal that would revise the outdated and ineffective 1993 Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substance law.
On 21-22 January, for example, the Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control (CCDAC), Burma’s top drug enforcement agency, organized a workshop in Naypyitaw, which welcomed representatives from opium farmers to participate and share their viewpoints and recommendations. “The outcome of this process is still unclear, but it provides an important opportunity to make the law more humane and effective,” it says.
Nevertheless, the Tatmadaw (military)’s policy of prioritizing security over drug-related concerns has allowed criminal groups and drug syndicates to operate freely especially in areas controlled by the pro-government militias.
“After decades of civil war, few of the conflict actors, including the Myanmar army, can claim to have clean hands,” it says. “TNI research in Shan State, for instance, found that all parties in the conflict—including Tatmadaw units—taxed opium farmers.”
Its policy recommendations include:
- Provision of voluntary treatment programs for drug users
- Decriminalization of drug use
- Expansion of harm reduction projects
- Prioritizations of alternative development programs
- Involvement of affected communities in drug policy making
- More attention for ATS related problems
“Eradication of poppy farms should not take place unless people have sufficient access to alternative livelihoods,” it urges. “As such China’s opium substitution policy should not continue in its present form.”
China’s program in Kachin and northern Shan states, which was reported in detail in TNI’s 2012 Financing Dispossession, focuses in large-scale mono plantations—mainly rubber—in return for credit, tax exemptions, and import quotas. “However, the benefits of the program mainly go to Chinese businessmen and local authorities, rather than to (ex) poppy farmers,” it says. “As a result, (ex) poppy farmers are largely losing access to land and are left to work as daily wage laborers on agricultural concessions or more further into isolated areas to grow poppy.”
The 14 page Current State of Counternarcotics Policy and Drug Reform Debates in Myanmar, written by Tom Kramer, can be read in http://www.tni.org