Drug busters have it both ways
Drug busters have it both ways
There are 4 types of drug entrepreneurs in Muse, opposite Ruili of Yunnan, according to sources whose survival, to a considerable degree, depend on their knowledge and access to it:
Financiers who own refineries and whose principal markets are outside the country.
Brokers whose job is to locate distributors for each community
Retailers pushing drugs to addicts
Dealers in precursor chemicals: acetic anhydride (acid), ephedrine etc.
For the 50-men strong drug police force headed by Police Major Win Naing, whose jurisdiction in Muse district comprising 5 townships: Muse, Namkham, Panghsai, Kutkhai and Mongkoe, the question is how he can make the most of his job without losing his status as a drug hound. Even those who have reason to dislike him says he does it well: most of his targets are small fry, occasionally bigger ones but never those who really matter.
The number of their seizures / arrests is delicately balanced between those that should be reported and those that should not be reported. For example, in late March, more than 100 kg of heroin were captured in Mongkoe with 4 ethnic Chinese shot to death in the process. But no news reports ever came out of it.
However, when Zaw Pao, 44, a retailer in Muse, failed to pay his monthly "security" fee, 60,000 kyat, last year, he was taken in with only a handful of pills in his possession and sent to court where he was sentenced to over a year in prison.
Even if one is prosecuted, it does not spell the end of the accused. In Muse, there are about 10 lawyers each handling 20 legal cases each year, 70-80 % of which inevitably have to do with drugs. Most of their legal battles, nevertheless, are not fought inside the court, but outside. Not surprisingly, a large percentage of suspects got away to return to their homes and to the very occupation for which they were arrested.
Sometimes, judges were somehow persuaded to pass judgments favorable to the defendants. Such was the case with Htun Tapae, 45, of Zelarn, whose profession as a dealer in precursor chemicals is an open secret in his neighborhood. He was caught twice last year, but was acquitted on both instances. U Saw Htun, township judge, later became a frequent visitor to his home to enjoy his hospitality. "This is the first time we have ever seen a lord of the law and its offender hobnobbing together," a businessman told the writer.
The local business community, as a result, is understandably pessimistic about the ongoing War on Drugs that has claimed to have reduced opium output in Shan State by 62% since 1996. "The six top casinos in Muse, acknowledged money laundromats here, are transmitting 300,000 yuan each per month to the Northeastern Region commander in Lashio," confided a source. "So, each time you hear a drug bust here, just ignore it. It is what local Shans call raising one pig for an annual feast. By virtue of such a generous contribution to the community, one's other sins are then conveniently overlooked."