The second round of inter-agency consultations on a new national drug policy have concluded this week in Nay Pyi Taw. The consultations come on the back of high-level discussions between the Government of Myanmar and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in late June on strengthening Myanmar’s response to the production, trafficking and use of illicit drugs, and a subsequent first round that took place in mid-October.
The sessions—a third round is planned between 21 and 28 November—have been organized by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Myanmar Police Force (MPF) Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control (CCDAC) and UNODC, focusing on prevention, treatment and rehabilitation, law enforcement and supply reduction, alternative development, and new and cross cutting challenges.
As MPF Brigadier-General Kyaw Win, Commander of the Drug Enforcement Division and Joint Secretary of CCDAC, stated during the first round of consultations, Myanmar drug control policy has “traditionally focused on supply reduction and law enforcement, which has led to limited results”. A comprehensive national drug control policy that is fit for the times is urgently required, not only because of the limited results of the previous policy, but because the challenges Myanmar is currently facing are significant, including areas of high and potentially rising opium poppy cultivation and heroin production, increases in methamphetamine production and trafficking, cross-border precursor chemical trafficking, and increasing drug use and associated harms.
In addition to the five thematic areas being prioritized, the Government of Myanmar is also emphasizing cooperation with neighbouring countries of the region to deal with the transnational nature of organized drug crime, and the significant two-way trade of precursors being trafficked into the country, and drugs being trafficked out. The priority for regional cooperation that the policy will align with will be the Mekong MOU on Drug Control, supplemented by cooperation with ASEAN, China and India.
Drug policy is not an isolated field. The Government of Myanmar has signaled that the coming national drug policy will address cross-cutting issues including public health, human rights and the needs of women and children, and it will also contribute to sustainable development. The approach taken by the Government of Myanmar with the support of UNODC is also intended to contribute to several of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs. Olivier Lermet, Regional Advisor on Drugs and Health and HIV/AIDS, emphasized during the discussions, “different aspects of the policy need to be looked at together, and implementation will require engagement of many parts of the Government of Myanmar including those more traditionally aligned with social and economic development plans. While the Myanmar Police Force will maintain a leadership role, it will mean a much greater role for health and local authorities.” Mr. Lermet further emphasized that the coming update of the 1993 Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Law in 2017 will complement the new policy.
Aside from organizing the three rounds of consultation rounds, the Government of Myanmar and UNODC will partner to undertake a national drug use survey in 2017 to better understand the nature and extent of drug use and associated health risks and harms.
The combination of drug policy and law reform, and ongoing alternative development work in Shan State, regional cooperation, the introduction of community based drug treatment and harm reduction standards and services, and a first ever national drug use survey, will contribute to a renewed approach to managing the drug situation. Ultimately the intention is to reduce illicit drug production and transnational trafficking, while alleviating social problems and improving the health of people and communities across the country.