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Bitter Pills: Breaking the Silence Surrounding Drug Problems in the Mon Community

By Human Rights Foundation of Monland  •  June 19, 2013

Bitter Pills CoverIn late 2012 the New Mon State Party (NMSP) initiated a vigorous anti-drugs campaign throughout various Mon communities in Burma. Arrests of numerous drug smugglers were made, drug-using youth were sent to NMSP rehabilitation centres, and signs were erected in villages calling on residents to resist and combat drug use. This wave of action brought an issue to the table that had thus far been surrounded by silence from relevant authorities. Prior to this, domestic and international discussions of Burma’s drug problems had largely been restricted to regions in Upper Burma, in particular Shan State. However, NMSP action highlighted that drugs were also prevalent in Mon communities and were being abused by Mon youth.

With a new focus on this issue, various questions have been raised. Exactly how widespread is the problem? Where are these drugs coming from? What are authorities outside of the NMSP doing to tackle drug use and trading? So far, these and other queries have been met with few adequate responses.

The main purpose of this report is to take on some of these questions and begin the process of providing concerned parties with satisfactory answers. Using testimony from a range of sources, HURFOM aims to offer a preliminary account of drug use and trading in Mon communities. The report also serves as a call to action to various authorities, whose co-operation is needed if decisive action is to be taken. Now that the matter has been brought to the table by the NMSP, HURFOM aims to ensure that authorities do not fall back into a pattern of silence and inactivity. We entreat all authorities, in particular the Burmese government and ethnic armed groups, to follow the lead taken by the NMSP and take up the challenge of tackling drug use in their domains of authority.

This report concerns drug use in the “Mon community” in Burma, referring to Mon individuals living in Mon and Karen States. It begins by explaining the background of drug use and trading in Mon communities before moving on to focus on the particularly acute drug problem reported among the young Mon population. Consideration is then given to individual testimonies, followed by a detailed exploration of various authorities’ responses. The report concludes by issuing a set of recommendations suggesting how the broad set of responsible parties can best move forward on the issue.

Download the report here.

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This post is in: Drugs, Spotlight

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