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Shan analysts: Junta militias emerging as new drug lords in Burma

Pro-junta militias operating in Shan State are now the main players in the drug trade, according to new findings by local Shan analysts.

The latest Shan Drug Watch newsletter, issued on 29 Sept, details how the Burmese regime’s War on Drugs has fallen way behind schedule, with 46 of Shan State’s 55 townships still growing opium. This is attributed to the Burma Army’s reliance on taxation of opium, and its policy to allow numerous proxy local militia to deal in drugs, including methamphetamines, in exchange for policing against resistance activity.

The favored status of the militia has enabled them to overtake ethnic ceasefire groups as the main drug producers in Shan State. Most ceasefire groups, including the United Wa State Army, have faced increased military pressure and restrictions after refusing to come under the regime’s control as Border Guard Forces.

“The junta’s militias are stepping into the vacuum left by the Wa and setting up new drug refineries along the Thai-Burma border,” explained Khuensai Jaiyen of Shan Drug Watch. “They are being rewarded for their political allegiance to the regime.”

Maps of militia areas, refineries and details of militia leaders’ close relations with Burma Army personnel throw light on the growing influence of these previously ignored drug operators. There are estimated to be about 400 different militia groups in northern Shan State alone.

Despite increased acreage of opium in Shan State during the past 2009-2010 season, overall output was reportedly down due to adverse weather conditions, particularly the unusually dry winter.

Shan Drug Watch is a project carried out by the Shan Herald Agency for News. It publishes periodic reports and annual newsletters on the drug situation in Shan State. The full Shan Drug Watch October 2010 newsletter can be viewed on


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