Vast Poppy Fields Identified in Govt-Controlled Areas of Waingmaw Township

A militiaman of Zahkung Ting Ying in the controlled area of Border Guard Force's Battalion No. 1003 in Waingmaw township, eastern Kachin State

Anti-drug group Pat Jasan says that opium cultivation is increasing, particularly in areas under the control of government-allied militias.

Government-controlled areas of Kachin State’s Waingmaw Township have around 12,550 acres of poppy plantations in their territory, Kachin anti-drug organization Pat Jasan has reported.

Pat Jasan carried out an on-the-ground survey in 28 villages under the control of Border Guard Force No. 1003 late last year. However, according to a recent report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the cultivation of opium poppies had decreased by 13 percent in Kachin State in 2018. Pat Jasan denies this claim, and now say it has steadily increased since 2017 in the area it surveyed.

“We just see that opium has kept growing in our Waingmaw Township. The opium cultivation in the Border Guard Force-controlled area in 2018 and 2019 has been greater than 2017,” a Baptist church pastor, who has led the Waingmaw chapter of Pat Jasan and participated in last year’s survey, said.

The UNODC report also stated that the growing of poppies was linked to ethnic armed organizations, rather than to government-affiliated groups. The UN agency claimed that the areas with the highest poppy cultivation were controlled by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

Pat Jasan disputes this conclusion. Since 2014, they say that Kachin State’s poppy fields have been heavily concentrated in areas under the control of government-allied Border Guard Forces and People’s Militia Forces, as well as near Burma Army camps. This includes areas throughout the state once held by the KIA but have since been occupied by the Tatmadaw.

Members of Pat Jasan—known for destroying opium crops—say that they have not been able to do so in government-controlled areas.

“The KIA's poppy eradication campaign is underway, but they avoid Burmese army posts because of security reasons,” said a church deacon and Pat Jasan leader working in Kachin State’s Hukawng Valley.

The members report they were attacked by the troops from the Burma Army, the Border Guard Force and People’s Militia Forces when they attempted to destroy poppies in Waingmaw Township in 2016.