Conflict in Rakhine State is Fuelled by Drug Trafficking

A startling claim has been made in a report published by Kofi Annan claiming the armed conflict within Rakhine, Myanmar, is fuelled by drug trafficking. Back in August 2017, 71 people were killed by militants. Militants raided police posts and it was during these raids that 71 people lost their lives.

Rakhine is one of Myanmar’s poorest districts. Rakhine has become well-known in recent years for all the wrong reasons.

Over the last five years, Rakhine has been the region of Myanmar where a conflict has played out between the Myanmar state and the local Rohingya Muslim population. The state claims these Muslims are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, despite the fact that these people have lived peacefully in Myanmar for hundreds of years.

The Myanmar state has displaced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims and committed human rights atrocities on a scale that can only be described as genocide.

Kofi Annan is the former secretary-general of the UN and he now chairs the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State. In this report, Annan states that drug trafficking within Rakhine ‘has increased significantly in recent years [with] enormous quantities of drugs (mainly methamphetamine, or ‘yaba’) [being] confiscated by Myanmar officials along the border with Bangladesh’.

Annan’s report is titled ‘Towards a Peaceful, Fair and Prosperous Future for the People of Rakhine’.

The report says drug trafficking has increased the amount of violence in Rakhine in recent years. Non-state militias are thought to be culpable for the trafficking. They then use the money earned from trafficking to fund their activities. The Myanmar state is accused of facilitating the trafficking.

During 2016 alone 98 million methamphetamine pills were seized across Myanmar.

In 2016, a Buddhist monk possessed four million methamphetamine pills, whilst two military personnel were found with 400,000 methamphetamine pills.

The report says drug trafficking is exasperating communal violence within Rakhine. Furthermore, because people in Rakhine are poor, they are said to be easily manipulated by the leaders of criminal gangs.

The report recommends several measures that could be implemented by the Myanmar authorities to reduce this drug trafficking and associated violence.

  1. Prosecute drug barons and major producers rather than low-level dealers and users
  2. Invest in harm reduction services
  3. Combat corruption within security agencies that operate on the Bangladeshi-Myanmar border
  4. Adopt an anti-drugs policy that is based on human rights, public health and the safety of the community
  5. Promote the social, economic and political inclusion of the Muslim community in Rakhine State

The above recommendations would serve to both reduce drug trafficking and tackle violence aimed at the Rohingya population. Annan added that ‘there is no time to lose [because] the situation in Rakhine State is becoming more precarious’.

‘My fervent hope now is that all concerned will follow through on the recommendations of the Commission without delay. By doing so, they will ensure a peaceful, fair and prosperous future for Rakhine State and its people.’