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Manau Festival site favorite location for young drug users

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Needles, used to inject narcotics, are littered across the Manau Festival grounds, testifying to the rampant drug abuse among Kachin youth in Myitkyina in Kachin State.

The Manau Festival Grounds in Kachin State is now a preferred location for young drug users and is strewn with needles used to inject narcotics. Photo: MizzimaA local resident said the used needles can also be found on the Irrawaddy River banks adjacent to the festival grounds.
Because the area where the Manau Festival is held isolated, situated in Sitapu Ward in Myitkyina, it has become the place of choice for local drug users.

“The Manau grounds are isolated and easily accessible by road’, said a 21-year-old drug user. ‘And also a centre that hands out needles is close by. So it’s a convenient place for drug users’.

Some NGOs in Myitkyina distribute disposable syringes free of charge to prevent infectious diseases arising out of needle sharing.

‘After distributing disposable syringes, we hire a few people and pay 2,000 kyat (US$ 2.38) each to pick up these discarded syringes’, said a NGO staff member, who asked to remain anonymous. Local residents said the needles can be found on every roadside in the area.

Kachin State Day is celebrated every year at the Manau Festival ground on January 10. A 50-year-old lady living nearby said, ‘I heard about injecting opium before, but now I see young people injecting drugs beside my house. It’s terrible.

‘A child from my family visited the Manau ground to play football, but he was injured by a discarded needle. He had to be taken to a clinic’, she said.

A doctor from the World Health Organization said the discarded needles could not infect a person with the HIV virus, but someone pierced  by a needle could easily be infected with Hepatitis B or C virus or  tetanus.

Needles are littered across the grounds and local residents say the needles are found on streets and on the banks of the nearby Irrawaddy River. Photo : MizzimaMost of the drug users are teenagers, sources said. Local authorities arrest only a small number of drug users and drugs are easily available in the area, a 19-year old drug user told Mizzima. 

‘The police only arrest drug users’, he said.  ‘They let the drug seller go free’.

The regime’s Northern Command commander, Brigadier General Zeyar Aung, recently made a visit to inspect the area, and Health Ministry officials have invited NGOs in the area to discuss the issue.

Captain Naw Htoo, an official in the anti-drug campaign of the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), told Mizzima that its anti-drug campaign launched in October last year was successful, but only operates around Laiza, the headquarters of KIO. The KIO, because it has refused to convert its army into a junta-controlled Border Guard Force, can not undertake an anti-drug campaign in junta-controlled areas, such as Myitkyina and Bhamo.

The state-run New Light of Myanmar, reported on March 7 that law enforcement agencies have destroyed more than 15,000 acres of poppy fields from September 2010 to February 2011. Four hundred acres were destroyed in Waimaw, Phakant and Tanai townships in Kachin State and more than 300 acres in Mong Tong, Mong Hsat, Kutkai and Momeik townships, the paper reported.

However, the poppy growing acreage in Burma  increased by 20 percent last year and produced more than 580 tons of raw opium, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

The street value of heroin is 10,000 kyat (US$ 11.88) for five hits. Raw opium can be found in Tanai Township in west Kachin State, in Waimaw and Sadon in east Kachin State, but heroin is imported from China, said Myitkyina residents.

The drug problem is especially serious in the area controlled by a KIA breakaway group led by Ma Htu Nau, called the Kachin Defence Army (KDA). It was converted into a People’s Militia under the junta last year.

‘After transforming the KDA into a People’s Militia, more Kachin youth are involved in drug abuse’, said a local source.  ‘There’s no one to educate young people about the danger of drug abuse’.

He said that unlike in Laiza, there is no anti-drug campaign, and the government also fails to address the issue even when people ask for its help.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 27 April 2011 09:21 )  

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