Palaung State Liberation Front (PSLF) chairman, Mai Aike Phone, informed Phophtaw yesterday that government troops battled with ethnic groups on October 1st and 2nd at Htawh Rail, Nansan Township in the northern part of Shan State. “A battle broke out today between PSLF battalion (257) and government troops (Infantry Battalion 501) based out of Naungcho. We also fought the troops yesterday alongside with other armed ethnic groups, Kachin Independence Army (KIA) brigade (4), Shan State Progress Party (SSPP) brigade (1), and Palaung battalion (257). Infantry Battalion (502) and (324) fought from the government side. The battles took place at Man Tong, Nansan, and Kutkhaing. We’ve heard that some of the government soldiers have been killed,” stated Mai Aike Phone.
The fighting broke out while KIA, SSPP and PSLF were visiting Kutkhaing in the northern part of Shan State, educating locals about the effects of opium usage and production, through PSLF’s Drug Destruction Plan. Immediate action against drug production and usage is vital in this area as the estimated annual drug production is about 1200kg per year in this township alone. Additionally, 80% of youth in the area use drugs.
Last year PSLF and Palaung locals worked together to create a proposal to present this issue to Myanmar’s president, U Thein Sein, in hopes that the government could set up a program to help the people fight drug usage and production. However, after never receiving a response from the president PSLF decided to take the issue into their own hands and created their Drug Destruction Plan.
Myanmar’s military government forces ethnic minorities to grow opium plants, the government then makes a profit from trading and taxing the drugs. According to Mai Aike Phone, when ethnic groups destroy these opium fields for the well being of their own community the government sends troops to attack them.
Ironically, in the past the government tried to place blame on ethnic minorities for the production of opium but now that they are trying to clear the area of drugs the government attacks them. Many believe this is more than enough proof to know who is really behind the drug production.
Unfortunately, this situation is all to familiar to these people, back in 2005 PSLF surrendered to the government after being attacked for destroy opium fields. After their surrender, drug addiction in the area rose incredible amounts leading to the statistics we see today.
PSLF plan to make the northern part of Shan State, specifically where the Palaung live, a drug-free zone by 2017. The drug addiction problem hits hardest with the Palaung, Shan, and Kachin people, where over 80% of the youth are using. These people not only have to fight the drug addiction problem within their community but also have to fight the government, which makes a hefty profit off their addiction.