Press release by the Lahu National Development Organisation
Date: October 27, 2016
Lahu report exposes Burma Army’s strategic reliance on the drug trade in the Golden Triangle
A new report by the Lahu National Development Organisation (LNDO) exposes the Burma Army’s reliance on the drug trade to subsidize its expanding militia forces in eastern Shan State.
The report, “Naypyidaw’s drug addiction,” based on unique access to ground sources, reveals the key role of Burma Army militia in hosting jungle labs for syndicates producing large amounts of heroin and methamphetamine pills ravaging communities across Burma and the region.
The Burma Army‘s local militias – mostly ethnic Lahu — are indispensable for securing control of remote mountainous regions east of the Salween. Despite ceasefires in this area, the Burma Army has been building up its militia strength: from about 2,300 troops in 68 militia groups ten years ago, to 3,400 troops in 87 groups today.
The militias earn huge profits from monopolizing opium sales to refinery owners, joint investments in refineries, and transporting refined drugs to distributors. This subsidizes their troops, and personally enriches militia leaders – a key incentive to remain loyal to the Burma Army against ethnic resistance groups, including Wa and Shan, vying for control of eastern Shan State.
“The Burma Army needs local militia to control eastern Shan State, and the cost of their loyalty is an unhindered drug trade,” said LNDO director Japhet Jagui. “Maintaining Naypyidaw’s control is far more important than the war on drugs.”
The report documents ongoing poverty of opium farmers, growing problems of drug addiction, and how forced relocation under token drug control programs has devastated Lahu communities.
LNDO is urging the new NLD-led government to come clean on their military’s involvement in the drug trade, and focus on supporting a political resolution to the ethnic conflict as a priority in tackling the drug problem in Burma.
“Only when there is a functioning federal democracy, with local leaders ruling by popular vote instead of the gun, can sustainable drug control programs take place,’ said Japhet Jakui.
LNDO also warns international donors that increased amounts of aid to the Burmese government to bolster its security sector, including for drug control, will only fuel the drug trade while the conflict persists.
The report can be viewed on lndoess.org
Japhet Jagui – tel: +66 84 807 6837
The Lahu National Development Organisation has been monitoring development in eastern Shan State since 1997, and has produced several research reports, including “Unsettling Moves – the Wa forced resettlement program in Eastern Shan State,” published in 2002.