As can be seen in previously published KHRG reports, armed groups such as the Karen National Union (KNU), Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA), Border Guard Force (BGF) and the Tatmadaw have previously attempted to cooperate to address the drug issues affecting communities in Karen State and take serious action in cases related to drugs. However, the production, sale and use of drugs are ongoing and have become a point of great concern in Karen State, especially in Hpa-an and Dooplaya districts.
According to a KHRG community member from Dooplaya District, the sale of yaba (methamphetamine) drugs in the villages near Kawkareik Town increased in 2015 and continues to increase in 2016. He reported that usually, it is the older women, those who are married to armed group members, who secretly sell yaba when their husbands are not home. The sale of drugs also occurs in many other places near the Thai-Burma/Myanmar border, such as Waw Lay village, Thay Baw Boh village and Hpa Lu village.
The widespread use of methamphetamines has been negatively affecting not only users, but also innocent community members. A stark example is the death of a villager named Kyaw Bleh from Mi Gan Kyar Ma Nai village, Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District, who was over 50 years old. He was killed in a drug-induced motorcycle accident in Kaw Hser village while he was on his way to Kawkareik Town. Saw A---, the driver who crashed into Kyaw Bleh’s motorcycle, was taken to the hospital after the accident. He mentioned that he had used yaba before driving and as a result, he accidently collided with Kyaw Bleh’s motorcycle.
Given the negative consequences of the use of yaba, some armed groups have been taking action against known yaba dealers. In one case, on February 12th 2015, BGF soldiers came into O--- village, Paingkyon Township, Hpa-an District, to arrest Naw B--- and her two daughters, as the BGF were informed that they sell yaba in the village. However, they were not able to arrest Naw B---, as she escaped to evade arrest. During the raid on her house, they found 20,000 pills of yaba and a 32 mm pistol, as well as some of the money that she and her daughters earned from selling the drug. Naw B--- is currently hiding with Karen Peace Council’s (KPC) Operation Command #3 Htaw Meh Pa Battalion, which is led by Commander Kyaw Kyaw.
Although the armed groups in Karen State are claiming to take serious action against drugs, they remain easily available for purchase locally, and the issues associated with them are ongoing. Yaba, in particular, is being widely used by many children, students and men in Hpa-an and Dooplaya districts, as it is not difficult to buy. The ease of access to yaba is especially apparent in Hlaingbwe Township in Hpa-an District, where even some students in sixth and seventh standards know how to use these drugs and are already addicted to them. As a result, these students do not obey their teachers and parents anymore. Consequentially, villagers from Daw Nan Sein village and the Chairperson from Pwo-S'kaw Democratic Party U Saw Thein Aung reported the case to the national parliament, calling on them to put a stop to the drugs issue. Information regarding drugs remain highly sensitive, as local villagers also see the local armed groups as complicit in perpetuating the drug issues. According to a KHRG community member from Dooplaya District, “The methamphetamine drug came from the organizations [armed groups], then [they] spread it to the civilians.”