A drug-related shootout in eastern Burma left one dead and another injured on Monday, according to a local administrator.
A group of villagers were buying and selling drugs in Nammatu Township, northern Shan State, on 8 September when they were approached by the local military patrol column, under Military Command 77, resulting in a deadly exchange.
Sai Ba Aung, a village administrator in Mansan, where the incident took place, said that a villager fired a shotgun at the soldiers when he realised they’d been discovered in the midst of illicit activities.
“Some villagers were secretly using drugs near the entrance to the village. The army column unexpectedly found them. One villager shot at them with a shotgun and the military column shot back at them,” he said. “One was hit in the abdomen and died. Another one is Mansan villager. He was shot in the chest and has been taken to the Lashio hospital. We don’t know his condition yet.”
Sai Ba Aung said that six villagers, all presumed to be drug addicts, have been detained at the Nammatu police station.
Local sources said that drug addiction is an enormous problem in the area, with users of all ages starting from about 12 years old. One villager told DVB that the man who fired the first shot was acting as a guard for the transaction. Gun-related crime is not common in most parts of Burma.
Sai Ba Aung said that an area just outside Mansan, which is in central Shan State between Lashio and Pyin Oo Lwin, has become a trading hub for drugs, and many people have become addicts. The spot was raided three times this year, but vendors kept changing location.
“The security around there is not good. Our police force can only succeed in arrests when we work together with a militia, and after we have received a tip off,” he said.
Tin Win Shwe said that the area hosts several militias and also has a strong presence of Shan State Army – North and Kachin Independence Army soldiers.
Burma is the world’s second largest producer of opiates, accounting for about 18 percent of production worldwide. Recent years have also seen a rise in demand for synthetic drugs like ya-ba, a pill-form methamphetamine. The Burmese government recently signed a new four-year agreement with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime geared towards tackling the country’s rampant drug-related problems.