On February 20, Myanmar, one of the world’s largest drug-producing countries, finally launched a new national drug control policy after years of deliberations. Though the document does signal a shift to a more comprehensive approach to addressing a chronic problem, the true test will how that approach is implemented in the coming years.
As I have noted before in these pages, Myanmar remains one of the world’s biggest producers of various kinds of illegal drugs and is a node within the notorious Golden Triangle, long a hub for mainland Southeast Asia’s drug trade. To help stem this problem, Naypyidaw has been taking a series of steps of late, which include not only punitive measures like seizures and arrests, but developing a more integrated national drug policy and cooperating more with international partners on aspects of law enforcement training and intelligence-sharing.
One of these lines of effort is developing a drug policy that is more comprehensive and effective. Though the need has been existent for years, discussions on the specifics of a national drug policy had been going on since 2016 with the help of outside actors including the United Nations Office of Drug Control (UNODC). Following consultations with a range of government and non-governmental stakeholders as well as outside experts, the broad outlines of an approach were released in 2017 and the policy itself was developed and had been presented internally within the government late last year.