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More young people are becoming addicted to heroin in Burma’s northernmost Kachin state as authorities fail to clamp down on dealers, sources in several towns have warned.
Males between the ages of 17 and 40 were among the most affected, said a resident of Mogaung town, which lies just west of the Kachin capital, Myitkyina. Other towns suffering rising rates of addiction were Mohnyin, Myitkyina and Hpakant, he added.
“The kids are so ruined,” the man said. “Everyone, from students aged around 18 to even farmers, are addicted to heroin. They were only trying it out at the beginning but now are addicted.”
He continued that most addicts were injecting the drug, a cheaper method despite the health risks. One intra-venous hit, he said, cost around 1000 kyat ($US1), while smoking through a pipe costs up to 4000 kyat ($US4.50).
A group of heroin dealers were reportedly arrested last month in Mohnyin by the government’s Anti-Drugs Task Force (ADTF) but later released on bail. The man said they had quickly got back to dealing.
Assertions by the Burmese government that it is stamping out the country’s lucrative drugs trade have been widely doubted: the US released a report last week saying that Burma had “demonstrably failed” to halt the trade of heroin and its derivative, opium, whilst statistics showed that in-country production of methamphetamine continues to rise.
The report was followed by an announcement in the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper that 15,021 acres of poppy fields were destroyed in 2010-2011, 411 of which were in Kachin state. Regardless, however, criticism continues to abound.
“The government is the main culprit for this,” said the Mogaung resident. “The government is the first to blame and the dealers the second. They are openly selling drugs on a tray.”
He claimed that dealers paid monthly bribes of up to 400,000 kyat ($US450) to government officials, including the ANTF.
Two years ago the Kachin News Group released an alarming report claiming that a significant number of students at the once prestigious Myitkyina University in Kachin state had fallen victim to drug addiction, notably heroin, with dealers initially luring students in with free samples.
Until the late 1990s and the explosion in Afghan heroin, Burma had held the distinction of being the world’s leading source of the narcotic, with the ethnic United Wa State Army producing hundreds of thousands of tonnes each year.
A report released last year by the Thailand-based Shan Drug Watch claimed that junta-backed militias had taken over ethnic armies as Burma’s main drugs’ producers, with the product finding its way to neighbouring Thailand and China.