As the number of drug users rises dramatically, local people are looking for ways to get involved in finding solutions.
Local communities in northern Shan State are stepping up their efforts to address a growing crisis that they see as a threat to their very existence: the soaring rate of drug use among the young.
“The number of drug addicts has tripled since last year,” said Sai Thein Myint, a youth leader from the village of Namma in Hsipaw Township, which on Thursday hosted a gathering of more than a thousand people from 350 villages intent on tackling the problem.
The attendees included monks, youths and ordinary citizens from Hsipaw, Lashio and Mongyeh townships—areas hard hit by the drug epidemic in northern Shan State.
They gathered at Namma’s local monastery to discuss the toll the crisis has taken on their communities and to try to come up with ways to bring it under control.
“We have seen drug addicts set fire to their own homes and addicted parents kill their own children in Namma. It has traumatized many women and greatly harmed the education of young people,” said Sai Thein Myint.
This was the first meeting of its kind to be held, but it won’t be the last, as participants vowed to meet again every three months to continue brainstorming solutions and to monitor the progress of their efforts.
While many who attended came as representatives of their respective communities, many others came as members of major social organizations, including the Tai Youth Organization and the Shan Farmers’ Association.
All involved agreed to share their experiences and ideas about how to eradicate drug trafficking and find effective means of dealing with addiction.
According to Sai Thein Myint, the participants agreed that success would depend upon cooperation among village administrators, local youths and the relevant authorities.
He added, however, that this wasn’t merely a local problem.
“We are worried because if a large number of youths are using drugs, it can hurt future political and national affairs, since the young are the leaders of the future,” he told SHAN.
Regarding official efforts to date, he said they have so far proved ineffective.
Attendees released a joint statement at the end of their meeting calling on the government and the public to work together and to treat the problem of eliminating illegal drug use from society as a “national task”.