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Drug trafficking, terror activities on rise as Myanmar gears up for elections

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Yangon,Myanmar

Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, Myanmar is scheduled to hold its third general election in six decades in a landmark development for the country’s democratic transition. However, the country is facing a sudden rise in activities related to drug trafficking, violence and terrorism.

Recently, Myanmar authorities confiscated 711,000 stimulants, worth over 1.4 billion kyats (over 1 million U.S. dollars) in Shan state, according to a release from the Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control (CCDAC) on June 13 (Saturday).

Earlier, Myanmar authorities had also seized narcotic drugs worth 459 million kyats (306,000 US dollars) from two Bangladeshi women in Rakhine state.

According to a recent release issued by the President’s office, a total of 1,169 drugs-related cases were registered across Myanmar while 1,811 people were charged in connection with the cases as of June 6 this year, since the formation of the Drug Activity Special Complaint Department in 2018.

Not only drug trafficking but terror and violence incidents have witnessed a sharp rise in the country.

A total of six Arakan National Party (ANP) members in Taungup Township of Myanmar’s Southern Rakhine State, have been arrested and charged under Myanmar’s Counter-Terrorism Law in recent weeks according to the ANP office in Taungup Township.

The 18-month armed conflict between state forces and the Arakan Army in Rakhine State in Myanmar’s most intense in years. It shows no sign of de-escalation and the COVID-19 threat has not focused the parties minds in peace.

The government’s designation of the group as terrorist will make matters worse.

According to International Crisis Group, the trajectory of the armed conflict is alarming, complicating problems in a state already traumatised by the separate crisis that resulted in the violent expulsion of more than 700,000 minority Rohingya to neighbouring Bangladesh in 2016-17.

Over the last 18 months, clashes have increased in regularity and intensity, their geographical scope has expanded and the civilian toll has grown.

Despite the significant loss of life on both sides, nothing suggests that Myanmar’s military, the Tatmadaw, is wearing down the Arakan Army or degrading its ability to operate. But nor is there reason to believe that the Arakan Army can achieve its aim of greater political autonomy on the battlefield.

“Civilians are paying a heavy price, caught in the crossfire or targeted as Arakan Army partisans or for harbouring fighters in their villages. Schools and medical facilities have been hit with alarming regularity, with each side usually blaming the other”, said International Crisis Group.

It added, “It is difficult to see how general elections, which were provisionally slated for November, could be held in many parts of Rakhine State, the conflict’s locus”.

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