|The damage done|
The rugged and mountainous forests of Kachin State have been ravaged by conflict since June 2011, when hostilities between the Burmese Army and the autonomist Kachin Independence Army (KIA, the armed wing of the Kachin Independence Organization) flared up after a tense ceasefire that had lasted for 17 years.
But the Tatmadaw, as the Burmese Army is also known, is not the only enemy that the Kachin are fighting. The KIO/KIA is also waging a war against another, faceless foe: drug addiction. And many Kachin are inclined to believe that both wars are more closely linked than appearances would suggest.
Burma is the second largest producer of opium in the world after Afghanistan. According to the annual report issued last year by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in 2012 there were 51,000 hectares of opium poppy plantations in the country, most of them in Shan State, the southern neighbour of Kachin State. Shan State is also the biggest source of methamphetamine in Southeast Asia. Many of these narcotics easily make their way into both the government- and KIA-controlled areas of Kachin State, and the extensive use of heroin and methamphetamine among its youth threatens to destroy the social fabric of the Kachin people.
To combat the use of drugs, the KIO established the Drug Eradication Committee four years ago. The Committee runs a string of rehabilitation centers in the KIO/KIA controlled territory. These centers are jails in everything but in name where drug addicts are compulsorily interned but six months and made to work and pray. Meanwhile, in the government-controlled areas of Kachin State, the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) also runs rehabilitation centers, where Kachin people undergo voluntarily treatment to get rid of their habit.
|Place||: Kachin State, Burma.|
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