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The Kachin State based anti-narcotics vigilante group Pat Ja San began destroying poppy fields in eastern Myitkyina district on Tuesday, with the protection of a security detail.
“We began destroying poppy fields in Chipwi Township’s Jaiklwe area at around four in the afternoon,” confirmed the group’s secretary Tang Gon.
The group has been repeatedly stalled in its planned opium-eradication efforts, which were set to begin in Chipwi Township on 19 January. The group has been given the blessing of Kachin State’s government and local police. However Pat Ja San has come up against resistance from local farmers and a local militia group.
Chipwi Township is governed by the New Democratic Army–Kachin, a former rebel group now allied to Naypyidaw.
“Over 1000 members of our narcotics suppression group escorted by more than 50 police and military security personnel headed out to poppy fields about 50 kilometres from the village [Jaiklwe]. They had to go on foot as there is no road leading to the area,” said Tang Gon.
Tuesday’s activity was carried out by more than 1000 Pat Ja San members escorted by the 50-strong police and military security detail. But while poppy slashing did occur in Chipwi Township, the group was forced to halt plans to destroy crops in the district of Waingmaw. The cancellation came after the group learned of a 1000-strong group of local opium farmers, who had armed themselves to ward off the anti-drug vigilantes.
Earlier this month, a 19-year old member of the group was shot and killed while clearing a field in the Kachin area of Donchaung and Chaungson. The unknown killer was widely assumed to be a local opium grower.
The 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.
Pat Ja San has a reported membership of around 100,000 in Kachin State.