Following its agreement to cooperate with Naypyitaw on 19 May in Kengtung, Shan State East capital, the Restoration Council of Shan State / Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) has been holding public meetings to ease fears that it may be waging a shooting war in conjunction with the Burma Army against drug offenders.
“Drugs are a menace to the society,” SSA leader Lt-Gen Yawdserk told the reception given by the people of Kengtung on 21 May. “Opposing them therefore is the right thing to do. What is wrong with it is the means that has been employed to oppose them: Waging war against each others, accusing each other and naming one after another as being druglords. Many druglords have come and gone but the drugs are still with us.”
“The RCSS/SSA’s way is not to resolve the problem by force of arms, but by force of education, health and development of the people’s living standard.”
The same speech was delivered at Tachilek, opposite Maesai, in evening upon his arrival and also reportedly on his return to Loi Taileng base.
“Other armed groups, both ceasefire and PMFs (People’s Militia Forces, formed by the Burma Army to fight against armed opposition), are worried,” a trader in Shan State East told SHAN. “They fear the SSA may gain an inside track with the Army.”
So far, the Army is exercising a hands-off policy on the PMFs’ drug activities, he added. As for the ceasefire groups, it has long been reported that drugs produced by them are being exported under the protection of the PMFs.
But the SSA South, as the RCSS/SSA is better known, has also made it clear they want the cooperation, not opposition, of all armed groups both in its proposal to Union Peacemaking Work Committee (UPWC) and its public statements.
The following are the excerpts from its proposal to the UPWC, dated 19 May 2012:
6. To collect the list of poppy-growers as well as acreage, and make a thorough research of root reasons for growing poppies before implementing the project
7. To educate the poppy growers in skills needed for crop substitution and legal trade
8. To provide short-term and long-term seeds for crop substitution, advanced agricultural techniques and markets for the people
9. To collect the list of drug users and set up treatment centers for them
14. To each armed organization
- (RCSS/SSA) will seek to win over for cooperation
- If there are users and dealers, (the RCSS/SSA) will give (friendly) warnings
- To take action in accordance with law when there is evidence that drug use and dealings have not stopped
Naypyitaw meanwhile has formed anti-drug committees at state, district, township, ward and village levels, in accordance with its Order # 17/2011, according to Gen Soe Win, who presided over the 19 May meeting. The UPWC agreed to submit the RCSS/SSA’s cooperation against drugs project proposal to President Thein Sein in the agreement reached late in the evening.
“What remains is how best we should cooperate and when,” the RCSS/SSA chief delegate Pawng Kherh told the meeting.