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A member of a controversial anti-drug vigilante group was killed in Kachin State on Friday.
The victim, Lawtaw Tu Seng, 19, was a member of Pat Jason – a vigilante group known for harsh methods for countering drug addiction in the state. Members of the group, founded by the Kachin Baptist Church, take it upon themselves to aggressively punish suspected drug dealers and addicts. Methods include public beatings and floggings.
Lawtaw Tu Seng was shot on 15 January while slashing a poppy field alongside other Pat Janson members in Tanai Township in the Hukawng valley, the group said.
“He was clearing poppy fields in the area of Donchaung and Chaungson when someone shot him with a musket from a nearby wooded area,” said spokesperson Maran La Ja.
The teenager’s body was transported back to his hometown of Laban Kawng, Mogaung Township, with a funeral planned for Monday.
Htay Maung, a local government administrator from Tanai Township, told DVB that authorities were searching for the unknown assailant.
“A police report has been filed – we don’t know as yet who the perpetrator is and we are still looking for suspects,” he said.
The church backed-Pat Jason, which began operations in 2014, reportedly has a membership of some 100,000 concerned Kachin residents. They became infamous for raiding local towns in camouflage uniforms armed with bamboo batons, rounding up suspected drug users and flogging them publicly. Often culprits are sent to faith-based rehabilitation programs, according to The Nation.
Drug use is rife in Kachin State communities, with many turning to cheap opiates both for medicinal purposes and recreational drug taking. Burma is second only to Afghanistan in opium cultivation, with the country’s notorious ‘Golden Triangle’ region, which includes intersecting parts of Laos and Vietnam, responsible for the production of some 823 metric tonnes of opium over the last year alone.