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Interview: ‘Imprisonment of users is not effective’

Aye Aye Mu, 46, is an ethnic Chin and a lower house lawmaker for the National League for Democracy (NLD) who represents Kale Township, in western Burma’s Sagaing Division.

She won the seat in the 2015 General Elections and has long been an NLD member in Kale (also spelled Kalay). Aye Aye Mu was briefly detained by the former military regime for her participation in the 2007 Saffron Revolution democratic movement in the town.

Kale is located along a transport route to Burma’s border with Northeast India, which runs through the Chin Mountains and connects to the border town of Tamu, some 80 km further north.

The impoverished town of around 500,000 inhabitants has been seriously affected by the transnational drug trade and addiction is rampant. Drugs from Burma, such as heroin and methamphetamine, are transported through Kale and Tamu to India, while precursor chemicals from India — used to produce methamphetamine — flow in the other direction.

Aye Aye Mu spoke with Myanmar Now about these problems, which have overwhelmed law enforcement authorities in Kalay.

Question: How severe is the problem of drug addiction in Kale Township?

Answer: I estimate that 60 percent of the youths in nearly every village of Kale are addicted to drugs. Parents worry about this and tell me about every time I visit the villages in Kale. It is a serious threat for the young generation of our country.

Q: Why has drug use spread so easily among young people?

A: Kale is geographically a border town and transport hub, with two routes leading to India. Security is also weak at the border checkpoints, making it easy to traffic illegal drugs. We received information that some locals are traffickers who persuade young people to use drugs and become addicted. Some unemployed young people also become drug traffickers.

Q: Do you think a lack of jobs and leisure activities in Kale causes young people to use drugs?

A: Illegal drug trafficking should be prevented and leisure activities such as sports must be promoted. We also lack public education programmes on the dangers of drugs here. This is a challenge for the NLD government.

Even before the new government was formed, Aung San Suu Kyi asked what activities should be set up for our young people. We will have to find leisure activities that substitute drugs, while unemployment is another reason for these problems.


Q: Why are police in Kale not arresting the major drug traffickers?

A: There might be hidden reasons behind it. I wonder why law enforcement authorities cannot investigate this problem, it’s their responsibility. They will definitely know the prominent drug traffickers. They have a lot of knowledge on how to solve crimes. I wonder why they have difficulty arresting these traffickers.

The (Union) government needs to adopt a sound national plan and involve the public in fighting drugs, because it seems it cannot be carried out by only government agencies.

Q: The Kale police have arrested many drug users and small dealers, instead of traffickers. Can such a strategy combat drug trade?

A: Impossible. The authorities hardly arrest any major drug traffickers — instead they arrest many users. But drug abuse cases didn’t decline so imprisonment of users is not an effective means.


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