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Fourteen members of an anti-drug vigilante group were injured when the group was attacked while slashing poppy fields in northern Burma.
On Thursday morning Pat Jason members were attacked by unknown assailants in Waingmaw Township while continuing their mission to destroy opium cultivation in drug-addled Kachin state.
Tang Gon, a spokesperson for the group, told DVB the small arms and grenade attack occurred at 9am between Waingmaw’s Sagong and Kampaiti villages.
“This morning, [Pat Jason] members headed out to an area called Maka to the south of the village of Sinjai where Border Guard Forces operate, when they came under attack. We were informed that about 14 of our members have been injured so far,” said Tang Gon.
He said that their protective police security detail assigned to the Kachin Baptist Church-backed group were overcome by the “organised” assault.A
Also on Thursday an overwhelming majority of lower house MPs in Naypyidaw voted to pass an urgent proposal calling on the government to support civilian groups tackling drug-related issues, and to protect them from reprisals.
The proposal was presented to the lower house on 24 February, at the same time Pat Jason remained locked in a standoff with the Tatmadaw in Kachin State.
The Union Solidarity and Development Party’s MP Sai Kyaw Soe of Mongpan Township, Shan State, criticised the policy, telling lawmakers that vigilantes had employed violent and lawless methods of punishment including publicly flogging drug users. While predominantly based in Kachin State, Pat Jason also operates in northern Shan State.
“With heavy hearts we witnessed on social media videos of non-state, anti-drug organisations in some ethnic regions moving around in large groups and physically punishing drug users.
“These acts imply a lack of understand and are wrong and lawless,” he said.
He stressed that despite the vigilantes’ good intentions, their campaign must be stopped.
In January 2016 a teenaged Pat Jason member was murdered while clearing a poppy field, suspected to be retaliation for the groups’ aggressive push to destroy opium crops in the region.
Government sanctioned efforts to combat the scourge of drug use throughout the country are also continuing, with the Burmese police set to conduct a drug survey in cooperation with the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, according to the Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control.