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Christians attacked in Myanmar's anti-drug campaign

Almost every family has drug users in Kachin state and face a lot of social problems, says lawmaker

Christians attacked in Myanmar's anti-drug campaign

An injured Pat Jasan anti-drug campaigner is brought to a hospital in Myitkyina, Kachin state's capital city, Feb. 25. (Photo from Jade Land Kachin's Facebook page)

Fourteen Christian volunteers from an anti-drug campaign group were injured in a grenade and gunfire attack Feb. 25 while clearing opium poppy plantations in Myanmar's war-torn Kachin state. 

Daung Hkaung, a leader of Pat Jasan in Wai Maw township, said he heard about the attack and that three people were critically wounded and sent to a hospital in Myitkyina, the Kachin state capital.

Pat Jasan, the anti-drug movement was established two years ago by the Kachin Baptist Church.

The volunteers were attacked while police accompanied anti-drug campaigners, said Tan Gun, the group’s spokesman, according to the Democratic Voice of Burma, a Yangon-based media group. 

It remains unclear who is behind the attack. U Lagan Zal Jone, an ethnic Kachin member of parliament from Waingmaw constituency, submitted an urgent motion on Feb. 24 calling on the union government to support the fight against drugs, to assist and protect volunteers from possible attackers, state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported Feb. 25.

More than 20 lawmakers discussed an urgent motion that was approved by parliament with a majority of votes on Feb. 25.

Some lawmakers also mentioned the attack on anti-drug campaigners in parliament, according to Lama Naw Aung, a Catholic and lower house member of parliament from Kachin state’s Democracy Party,

Lama Naw Aung said parliament called on the union government to support community-based anti-drug eradication effort and give security.

"The drug issue is a big problem in our society and the deaths of young people are increasing. Almost every family has drug users in Kachin state and face a lot of social problems," Lama Naw Aung told ucanews.com on Feb. 25.

He added that churches and some local donors are considering supporting poppy farmers with alternative crops and cash.

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Made up mostly of ethnic Kachin, Pat Jasan began clearing poppy fields two years ago but put their efforts on hold in January after one of their members was killed and three others injured. A 19-year-old Kachin man was shot dead by a sniper suspected to be the owner of a poppy field that the group was clearing.

Around 3,000 Pat Jasan members were allowed to continue their mission on Feb. 23 after ending a weeklong standoff with local authorities.

Myanmar is the world's second largest opium producer after Afghanistan. Opium production brings in nine to 15 times more money per hectare than rice according to a 2011 opium survey by the United Nations.

A Pat Jasan member, injured in a clash with opium poppy farmers, arrives for treatment at a hospital in Myitkyina, Kachin state's capital city, Feb. 25. (Photo from Jade Land Kachin's Facebook page)

 

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