Chin State Govt Fails to Uproot Opium Poppy Plantation
06 November 2012: People in Tonzang Township said the government of Chin State should keep its promises on eradication of opium poppy cultivation in the northern parts of Burma’s poorest state.
Community leaders in Tonzang Township and Cikha Sub-township voiced their grave concern over ongoing cultivation of opium poppy crops in their areas with an estimated acreage of over 4,500.
A Tonzang resident told a Burmese journal that the government must take proper action to tackle the opium-related problems which have been negatively affecting local communities.
“In some areas of Cikha Sub-township, most farmers change their fields for growing poppies. The government must do something to stop poppy cultivation and to provide alternative livelihood,” he added.
At the event held on eradication of poppy cultivation in Tonzang late last year, Pu Hung Ngai, Chief Minister of Chin State, said of government’s plans to provide Chin farmers with assistance to start alternative income-generating agriculture.
Pu Hung Ngai was quoted as saying that the government would give necessary loans for cultivation of marketable herbs such as arrowroot to subsistence farmers in poppy-cultivated areas of Tonzang Township.
During the Assembly session of Chin State government in November 2011, the Chin National Party (CNP) was reported to have proposed an immediate formation of a committee comprising of politicians, experts and representatives of State Hluttaw and UN to combat opium poppy plantation.
The authority, both central and local, has been branded for ‘neglecting’ alarming issues of poppy cultivation and for ‘not taking’ enough action to find long-term solutions for Chin subsistence farmers.
One of the Tedim community leaders said: “Burning the poppy seeds and holding a ceremony on eradication are not sufficient. A practical implementation should be carried out to bring positive effects on the ground.”
It is estimated that about 90 percent of youths in their twenties in some villages in Tonzang and Cikha areas have used or been addicted to opium, according to sources.
When asked about the situation, U Hla Myint, of Chin State government, blamed internet-based media and news agencies for ‘false’ reporting on the opium poppy cultivation, challenging: “If you prove the plantation locations with evidence, then we will take responsibilities.”
“If the evidence proves it wrong, whoever says about this issue will have to take responsibilities,” added the government official.
The Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control under the Ministry of Home Affairs confirmed in its 15-year drugs elimination plan the existence of opium poppy cultivation in 2 townships in Chin State.
“The Opium Act was promulgated but the force of law failed to embrace Shan, Kachin and Chin States actually giving rise to rampant rife of opium dens and even brazen open market sale of the drug,” said the government’s report.
In March this year, UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) said rapid assessments were conducted in Karenni and Chin states to assess opium poppy cultivation levels and monitor possible cultivation displacement.
Sources said poppy cultivations in Chin State have rapidly increased since 2006 when Burma’s military authorities started close collaboration with the Meitei rebels from Manipur State of India in secretly running illegal activities under their control.
Interviews with retired police officers in Tedim Township confirmed that the video footage showing farmers weeding out and uprooting the poppy plants was faked, according to a report in 1998 by the Sunday Times in London.
The report said while the film was being shown to the UN in Rangoon, the army in Tedim Township supervised poppy cultivation schemes.
“More than 15 acres of land in every village was set aside for the crop and each grower paid an annual license of 10,000 kyat (£25) to the Drug Control Bureau and 5,000 kyat (£13) to the police. Each acre of land yielded six kilograms of opium paste sold for 90,000 kyat (£220).”
Recent agreements on border trades between Burma and India via Tamu in Sagaing region have increased concerns that it would attract more villages in Chin State to get involved in poppy cultivation.
It is claimed that poppy plantations in Chin State have spread into other townships including Thantlang.
According to the Chin World Media, the Zomi Student Youth Organization called on the government of Chin State to take all necessary measures against those local authorities being responsible and to drive away foreign armed rebel groups from Chin State.
Van Biak Thang